Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok says the “pressure will ramp up” on Sergio Perez as teams begin to move closer to Red Bull, claiming the lack of competition saved his runner-up finish.
Red Bull were in a league of their own in F1 2023, winning a remarkable 21 of the 22 grands prix, though it was Max Verstappen doing the majority of the heavy lifting.
While he won 19 of those grands prix on his way to a third World Championship, for Perez it was just the two, though he was able to confirm Red Bull’s first one-two finish in the Drivers’ Championship despite finishing with a points tally fewer than half of Verstappen’s 575.
Sergio Perez warned F1 grid will converge
Red Bull did not face a consistent challenger during F1 2023, the ‘best of the rest’ status being batted between Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin throughout the campaign.
Chandhok believes this got Perez’s P2 over the line, but with both Verstappen and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner having predicted closer competition for F1 2024, Chandhok warns Perez needs to up his game.
“He got one top-four finish in qualifying in the last 17 grands prix,” said Chandhok on the Sky F1 podcast. “That was his bugbear wasn’t it, his qualy.
“And really, it was only the sprint in Baku that he outqualified Max on merit across the season. The rest of it was Max having issues or something happened.
“I think he benefited from the fact that the opposition was that far behind in terms of pure pace.
“And when we start to see this convergence as we inevitably get with stable rules, I think the pressure will ramp up on that second Red Bull to be outperforming the Ferraris and Mercedes and the Astons and the McLarens, and maybe the Alpines.”
Perez enters the final year of his Red Bull contract in F1 2024, increasing the pressure as he attempts to secure an extension.
The main threat appears to be eight-time grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo, who will remain with Red Bull’s second team AlphaTauri for F1 2024, partnered by Yuki Tsunoda.