‘Red Bull should drop Sergio Perez if he loses runner-up spot to Lewis Hamilton’

Oliver Harden
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez grimaces as he prepares for the start of the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, May 2023.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez grimaces as he prepares for the start of the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, May 2023.

Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham believes Sergio Perez should lose his Red Bull seat if he is beaten to the runner-up spot in the F1 2023 standings.

With team-mate Max Verstappen closing in on a third consecutive title, Perez sits 125 points behind and potentially faces a battle to hold on to second place in the Drivers’ Championship.

Ahead of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, the Mexican holds a 40-point advantage over third-placed Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin, with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton a point further back in fourth.

Sergio Perez to save Red Bull career with second place?

Despite winning two of the opening four races of 2023 in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, Perez’s season imploded as he suffered a damaging run of five races without a Q3 appearance between Monaco and Silverstone.

Perez claimed two podium finishes in Hungary and Belgium ahead of F1’s annual summer break – but doubts remain over his future after Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo was placed at sister team AlphaTauri for the remainder of the 2023 season seemingly with a view to potentially replacing Perez, whose current contract is set to expire at the end of next year.

Pinkham is known to have a close personal relationship with Ricciardo, who is the godfather to one of her children, and has called for Perez to be dropped if he fails to finish second in the dominant RB19 car, winner of every race so far in 2023.

Asked to predict who will finish as runner up to Verstappen, she told the Sky F1 podcast: “It’s controversial, but I’m going to say that Lewis Hamilton will finish runner up.

“The reason I say that is because I fear that the Aston Martin decent run form is over, whether it is to do with this flexi wing being outruled [sic] or whether they’ve just gone down a bit of a cul de sac in terms of development and it’s been exaggerated by the fact that others have gone well, the likes of McLaren.

“But I will caveat that with saying that if Perez doesn’t finish runner up, he should lose his seat – because this [car] is an unbelievable piece of machinery.

“And I do believe that Perez has the ability, the talent to do it, so if he doesn’t then I’m afraid that is the end of his career at Red Bull.

“So I think probably Perez will do it, because he has the talent and the car to do it, but I’m just being controversial.”

Verstappen’s former Red Bull performance engineer Blake Hinsey sympathised with Pinkham’s argument – and has been left bemused by Perez’s latest mid-season slump – but feels the Mexican should have enough to see off Alonso and Hamilton.

He said: “I am going to say Perez. I also see your point as well, though, if Checo doesn’t hang on to P2. You rightly said that Aston look to have fallen a bit back and the Mercedes has been nothing if not consistent, but I think Perez will be runner up in the Drivers’.

“It’s seemed like he’s had a little blip, but he had this last year after the break – he had a little slump in form and then came back towards the end of the season and he was fighting. I don’t remember that happening with him in the past.

“I’m going to be boring and go with Perez – I think that’s almost a certainty, but not guaranteed.”

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With Red Bull hopeful of becoming the first team in F1 history to register an unbeaten season, 1996 World Champion Damon Hill believes recording a one-two finish in the standings would be another little piece of history for the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

He added: “I don’t think Lewis can get Checo. I’d be amazed if he could overturn his performance.

“We don’t want Checo to have another nightmare [in the] middle part of the season like he’s had and I think he’s turned a corner a bit, so I think he’ll do it.

“[Wouldn’t that be a] first for Red Bull? They’ve never had a one-two in the Championship. Winner takes all, it’d be great to see.

“I think this is leading up to them ticking all the boxes, breaking all the records – and I kind of would like to see that happen, honestly, because then it’s a historic season and you were there to witness it.

“They’re breaking all the records as they go and we’re going into the unknown. Can you win every race as a team in the Championship?”

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