Sergio Perez has insisted he is paying no attention to the critics as rumours surrounding his future with Red Bull intensify.
The Mexican had targeted a 2023 title challenge after winning two of the opening four races in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, but has found his place with the team coming under increasing threat in light of an alarming mid-season slump.
Despite driving the dominant RB19 car, Perez failed to reach Q3 for five races in succession between Monaco and Britain. He appeared to steady the ship with consecutive podiums prior to F1’s summer break, but a disastrous Dutch GP weekend has resulted in more questions over his future.
Additional reporting by Sam Cooper
Sergio Perez ignoring the critics as Red Bull scrutiny builds
Perez has a contract in place until the end of 2024, but Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko raised doubts at Zandvoort by hinting the team’s driver lineup for next season is yet to be finalised – a statement seemingly at odds with team principal Christian Horner’s insistence that Perez’s seat is safe.
Rumours in recent months have suggested that Perez’s contract may contain a clause allowing Red Bull to demote him to junior team AlphaTauri, with others indicating that discussions to arrange a separation are already underway (bottom).
Despite the intense spotlight on his performances, Perez is adamant that he is paying no heed to the speculation and understands the scrutiny on his position.
He told media including PlanetF1.com at Zandvoort: “Obviously, you always want to prove yourself – it’s a game to yourself.
“I haven’t really, to be honest, read what people say or have to say about myself or my career or whatever. I know what I’m capable of, I’ve done it before and not that long ago – it was only a few months ago.
“But people, when they’re not here, it’s very easy for them to speak out and it’s something that is very understandable. It’s how most sports work.
“But I think as an athlete, it’s important to be able to disconnect from that and make sure that you do what is best for you.
“To be honest, I don’t follow social media that much, first of all. And secondly, during the break, I was so busy having a good time that I really don’t listen to all of that and I focus on what I have to do.
“There are so many things that I could focus on and be negative to myself [about] and become a victim very easily, but that’s not the way I am. I’ve never been like that.
“I’m just focusing on what I can do best, focusing on enjoying the moment, and that’s [where] all my focus and all my energy [is].”
The broken hand sustained by Daniel Ricciardo in a Friday practice crash at Zandvoort appeared to ease the immediate pressure on Perez, with the Australian making no secret of his desire to reclaim the Red Bull seat he vacated at the end of 2018 since returning with AlphaTauri.
It emerged following Ricciardo’s day in the Red Bull RB19 during a post-British GP Pirelli tyre test in July that his fastest lap would have secured him a place on the front row of the grid for the Silverstone event. Perez started the race from 15th after falling in the first stage of qualifying.
Should Red Bull opt to drop Perez at the end of this season, Ricciardo would likely be among the leading contenders to partner Verstappen for 2024 – though an ambitious move for one of the McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, cannot be ruled out.