Sergio Perez at centre of stinging Red Bull criticism from axed former driver

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez looks reflective after the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez looks reflective after the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Former Toro Rosso racer Jaime Alguersuari has not held back with his criticism of Sergio Perez, saying a Red Bull junior performing like him would not have lasted a year under Helmut Marko’s watch.

Perez is now into his third season as a Red Bull driver, having been brought into the fold ahead of the 2021 campaign to replace Alex Albon.

But, after starting the F1 2023 campaign so strongly, he and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen taking two wins apiece in the opening four rounds, Perez’s title push and season overall has unraveled. He is without a Q3 appearance in his last five outings, scoring only one podium finish in that time.

So many drivers would get closer to Max Verstappen than Sergio Perez

That is the belief of Alguersuari, who reckons the current F1 grid houses various other drivers who could offer a sterner fight to Verstappen than Perez is, with an alarming gulf having developed between the team-mates through this poor run for Perez.

Speaking on the Sky F1 podcast, Alguersuari said: “I have huge respect to Checo. I raced with him in F3 and other racing series. I know him really well and the job he has now is very difficult.

“Max is an extraordinary driver, probably the best in the world right now, he knows the team and car. Checo is struggling big time but I know there is more to come.

“We have to be clear that Checo was never in the junior team. If he was, considering how Helmut Marko judges drivers, he would not have lasted a year.

“You have a winning car and have to use it. I know people will think, ‘what are you saying, your best place was seventh?’ I didn’t have a chance to drive a winning car and I’m just saying your first rival is your team-mate.

“It’s not acceptable that Perez is always half a second or seven-tenths slower. If your team-mate is winning all the races, you have to at least be on the podium, not on your best day being on the podium.

“You have to be closer otherwise they have the right to replace you. There are many drivers on the grid that could definitely be much closer to Max.”

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Sergio Perez presence shows Red Bull system floundering

Traditionally, Red Bull looked to ensure their junior programme, junior F1 team Toro Rosso, now AlphaTauri, and main Red Bull team were aligned to ensure that their F1 line-ups featured talent developed through the Red Bull junior programme.

The supply of talent in recent years though has begun to dry up, seen in Perez’s appointment, while when Pierre Gasly left AlphaTauri to join Alpine for F1 2023, Red Bull turned to Nyck de Vries, a former Formula E and Formula 2 champion, though the Dutchman was dropped after 10 races.

Alguersuari then says that Perez’s place in the Red Bull line-up “doesn’t make sense” and shows the Red Bull system is currently failing.

“The fact that Perez is driving for Red Bull shows the Red Bull junior team is not successful,” Alguersuari claimed.

“The whole idea they told us and the media is they are building champions, or the best drivers they can, to give them an opportunity to drive for AlphaTauri in order for them to get experience.

“For them to go somewhere else to find a driver at Red Bull is already controversial. It doesn’t make sense. You are spending millions for years for many drivers to become champions in junior categories, to then go into F1, give them very little chance and cross your fingers you have a good car – otherwise you do nothing in F1 if you don’t have a good car – you are at the back, then cross your fingers you drive for a winning car, which is Red Bull.”

Red Bull did have the option to replace De Vries with a Junior Team member in Liam Lawson, but chose to send eight-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo to AlphaTauri on loan for the remainder of the season, allowing Lawson to continue his pursuit of the Super Formula title.

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