F1 rumours: Red Bull’s ’emergency’ plan for 2024 if Sergio Perez leaves

Oliver Harden
Sergio Perez stares awkwardly at Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after their titanic battle in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Sergio Perez stares awkwardly at Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after their titanic battle in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Daniel Ricciardo will return to Red Bull as Max Verstappen’s team-mate for F1 2024 if Sergio Perez leaves the team at the end of the current season, it has been claimed.

Ricciardo’s promotion to the senior team would then see Liam Lawson signed as Yuki Tsunoda’s team-mate at AlphaTauri in the event of Perez’s departure in what has been described as an “emergency solution.”

Perez’s place at Red Bull has come under severe threat in recent months in light of a dramatic mid-season implosion, which saw him fail to reach Q3 for five successive races between Monaco and Britain and score just five points in the last three races in Singapore, Japan and Qatar.

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Despite holding a contract until the end of 2024, speculation has intensified in recent weeks that Perez and Red Bull may part ways at the conclusion of this season, creating a vacancy alongside newly crowned three-time World Champion Verstappen.

Speculation earlier this week indicated Perez, 33, could even announce his retirement at his home race, the Mexico City Grand Prix.

The rumours were dismissed by a source close to the situation, who denied the claims as completely false and “absolutely not happening” when approached by PlanetF1.com.

However, a report by German publication Auto Motor und Sport claims that the possibility cannot be ruled out that Perez will choose to walk away, with Red Bull already decided on Ricciardo as his replacement.

Perez is said to be aware that his future hinges on to his ability to cling on to second place in the Drivers’ Championship, with Red Bull aiming to have their drivers finish first and second for the first time in the team’s history in 2023.

According to the report, Perez – who holds a 30-point lead over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in the fight for P2 with five rounds remaining – “knows that he will have a problem if he can’t hold on to second place in the Championship, contract or no contract.”

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Ricciardo enjoyed his big break in F1 with Red Bull in 2014, winning a total of seven races before signing a lucrative contract to join Renault in 2019.

The Australian lost his place on the grid at the end of 2022 after two difficult seasons with McLaren, rejoining Red Bull as reserve driver before returning to a race seat with AlphaTauri following July’s British GP – the final race in Perez’s sequence of five races without a top-10 start.

Ricciardo has made no secret of his desire to reclaim his former Red Bull seat, but his chances of putting forward a case to replace Perez appeared to suffer when he sustained a broken hand in a practice crash at the Dutch GP at the end of August, which has ruled him out of the last five races.

The 34-year-old is expected to return to the cockpit at the next round, the United States GP in Austin, in place of Liam Lawson, who has impressed while deputising for the Australian at AlphaTauri.

Lawson was left without a race seat for 2024 when AlphaTauri confirmed Ricciardo and Tsunoda will remain with the team next season ahead of the Japanese GP at Suzuka despite claiming the team’s best result of the season with ninth place in Singapore.

The New Zealander has been strongly linked with a move to Williams to replace Logan Sargeant, but is more likely to remain within the Red Bull system until a vacancy appears.

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