Christian Horner has given a clear indication that Red Bull are prepared to impose team orders on Sergio Perez at his home Mexican Grand Prix.
Perez, for the first time in his career, has a realistic chance of winning in front of his adoring Mexico City fans after joining Red Bull for this 2021 campaign.
Winner of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June, the 31-year-old has finished on the podium in the last two races with his form having improved following a mid-season slump.
But his victory prospects depend not only on beating Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas but also his own team-mate Max Verstappen, who is 12 points clear in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Perez has claimed he is “pretty sure the whole team, Red Bull, everyone, want me to win this weekend”.
However, his team boss Horner has hinted strongly that if Verstappen was running second to him in the closing stages, Red Bull would be fully prepared to tell Perez to move aside in order to boost the Dutchman’s title chances.
“What you have to understand is it’s a team sport, in which we are fighting for both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ World Championships,” Horner told Sky F1.
“This is one of 22 races. It happens to be Checo’s home race. You’d hate to be in a position that you’re asking a driver to do that.
“But we’ll have to talk about all of these scenarios before the race and have a clear plan going into the race so everyone knows what the plan and the objective is. The objective here is maximum points because at this point in the championship, we can’t afford to give a single point away.
“Everyone plays their role in the team and if we need to maximise our points, we’ll need to do that. We’ll certainly discuss these things, as we always do before any Grand Prix.
“Sergio knows what his job is for the team, to support his team-mate, and it would be a wonderful problem to have.”
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) November 5, 2021
Free practice was dominated by Red Bull and Mercedes, with Verstappen fastest by 0.424sec in the second session.
Earlier, Perez had lost running time when he went backwards into the barrier and broke his rear wing, but is still hoping he can start on pole position – saying that is his “target”.
“It was a shame we damaged the car and we put a bit of extra work to the boys [in FP1], but other than that it was a positive day,” he said.
“I’m feeling more comfortable in the long run than over the one lap, so I still think there’s potential to improve the car over one lap.
“Margins will be very close tomorrow with the Mercs, so hopefully we are able to lock out that front row.”
Verstappen said: “It was quite a good day. I mean, of course, always trying to improve the car, trying to make it feel better.
“Also in FP1 the track was very dirty, so in FP2 that was already a bit nicer. It seemed like the car was working quite well. A few things to look at, but pretty good.”