Ralf Schumacher suggests surprise Sergio Perez replacement – if seat becomes free

Henry Valantine
Alex Albon and Sergio Perez. Bahrain March 2023.

Williams driver Alex Albon ahead of Red Bull driver Sergio Perez. Bahrain March 2023.

Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher “strongly believes” Sergio Perez will remain a Red Bull driver next season, though admitted “nothing is impossible” in the sport as he comes under scrutiny.

The Mexican has fallen 99 points behind runaway World Championship leader and team-mate Max Verstappen as he has gone on a six-race winning streak, while Perez has come under pressure for not making it into Q3 in each of the last five races.

While Schumacher firmly thinks Perez will remain in his seat next year, he floated the possibility of two potential replacements – one of which being Alex Albon, who Perez replaced at Red Bull in the first place in 2021.

Ralf Schumacher: Alex Albon or Daniel Ricciardo could put up biggest fight to Sergio Perez

One of the big stories towards the end of the 2020 season was whether or not Albon would keep his seat at Red Bull for the following year with Perez, in the form of his life at Racing Point, moved aside for the incoming Sebastian Vettel when the team would be rebranded to Aston Martin.

After winning the Sakhir Grand Prix, Red Bull opted to put Perez alongside Verstappen and Albon dropped into the role of third driver, before moving to Williams at the start of 2022.

But the Thai-British driver has been in excellent form in 2023, firmly establishing himself as Williams’ team leader and putting in a “drive of champions” in Canada to finish P7, as team principal James Vowles called it.

He also received compliments from Red Bull team boss Christian Horner for how he performed that weekend, but despite those words, six-time grand prix winner Schumacher believes the seat is for Perez to lose in 2024, given his contract still runs until the end of next year and Albon is under a multi-year deal at Williams himself.

But given that “nothing is impossible”, if Red Bull were to consider a change, the German believes he and Daniel Ricciardo could be the ones at the forefront of Red Bull’s minds.

“Perez is currently showing that a dominant car is not everything, and yet I strongly believe that he will also be in the Red Bull next year,” Schumacher wrote in a column for Sky Deutschland.

“If Alex Albon were free – which he isn’t – or if Ricciardo comes into action now and can show his class, it could perhaps be tight.

“But he has a contract and therefore I can almost not imagine a separation. But almost nothing is impossible in Formula 1.”

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As for Ricciardo, he will be back on the grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix in an AlphaTauri after successfully completing a Pirelli tyre test for Red Bull at Silverstone on Tuesday, abruptly replacing Nyck de Vries after only 10 races.

Given that he has spent a little bit of time off the grid, Schumacher is unsure in what condition the Australian will find himself when he returns, though he should feel refreshed after two difficult years at McLaren.

“You just hoped for more, but whether it will really be Ricciardo in the end, we’ll have to wait and see,” Schumacher wrote.

“I think the little break has certainly done him some good and he can take a relaxed approach.

“However, the car is not particularly good, but who knows? Maybe the concept suits him. The tyre test will certainly set the first course.”

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