Although Sergio Perez has a 2024 Red Bull contract, Helmut Marko says while there is a “contractual guarantee”, that doesn’t mean there’s a “job” guarantee.
It seems lately that every time Red Bull team boss Christian Horner assures Perez of a place on the grid with Red Bull next season, Marko adds a caveat to that.
Of late the team’s motorsport advisor has spoken about a performance clause and seemed to imply that runner-up to Max Verstappen is the bare minimum Perez has to achieve.
Helmut Marko continues to cast doubt on Sergio Perez’s Red Bull future
That, though, isn’t a certainty given Perez is just 33 points ahead of the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso with Lewis Hamilton a further 12 points adrift.
Perez has paid a hefty price in the championship for a qualifying slump that ran for five races from Monaco through to Silverstone with the driver unable to break into Q3 and only once recovering onto the podium.
That meant even when he regained some of his lost form in Hungary, he was out of the title fight and he has since lost further ground to runaway championship leader Max Verstappen with his deficit up to 139 points.
It has Marko saying he cannot count on Perez to deliver.
“Unfortunately,” he told OE24. “Checo drives really well at times but doesn’t always manage to squeeze the most out of the car without making mistakes.
“In Zandvoort, for example, he probably wouldn’t have scored points if he hadn’t stopped.”
Asked whether Red Bull could decide ‘enough at some point’ with the Mexican driver, Marko replied: “Now he has a contract until 2024.”
But that doesn’t mean he’s assured of a race seat with the 80-year-old adding: “Is there a job guarantee in Formula 1? In any case, it is a contractual guarantee.”
Told that former F1 driver turned pundit Ralf Schumacher doesn’t believe Perez’s situation can continue for much longer, Marko laughed: “But hopefully he didn’t mean that Mick Schumacher would have to replace him!”
A warning to Daniel Ricciardo upon his return?
But one driver who is potentially in line to replace Perez is Daniel Ricciardo.
The Aussie returned to the grid in Hungary, racing for AlphaTauri, but found his comeback paused when he broke his hand in an FP2 crash at the Dutch Grand Prix. The break required surgery with Ricciardo expected to sit out Monza and also Singapore.
Marko says when he returns, the Japanese Grand Prix seeming to the date, the Honey Badger needs to make his point sooner rather than later.
“Normally it is said that with such a serious hand injury it takes six weeks,” he said of Ricciardo. “But sometimes things like that heal quicker.
“Daniel should score points for AlphaTauri as quickly as possible.”
In the meantime, Red Bull junior Liam Lawson is the AT04 alongside Yuki Tsunoda with Marko satisfied with the job he did at Zandvoort.
“He did a good job. They got him in at the wrong time in qualifying, but in the race, he set competitive times. In addition, he showed no respect and overtook not only Leclerc but also Max. Overall it was a very positive debut.”
As for the Kiwi’s potential, “that will be evident in Monza, and probably also in Singapore” said the Red Bull motorsport advisor.