Sergio Perez has to do his best to beat his team-mate Max Verstappen to the World title, otherwise “why is he competing?”, says team boss Christian Horner.
But, when all is said and done, the Mexican driver knows “exactly what is expected from him” from the Red Bull team.
What exactly that is, Horner isn’t saying.
Joining Red Bull in 2021, handed a lifeline after it seemed his career ended with his Racing Point exit, Perez wasn’t able to match his new team-mate for pace and soon found himself moving over for Verstappen. Not once, but twice.
He ended the season with an award-winning role as wingman, holding up at Lewis Hamilton at the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in order to help Verstappen close the gap on the Mercedes driver.
Verstappen went onto win the race and the title, praising Perez for his efforts on the day.
2022 was a difficult story as Verstappen didn’t any help at all, romping to 15 wins and a second World title, while Perez was a distant third in the championship.
He did, however, help Red Bull secure the teams’ trophy with three races to spare, the Milton Keynes squad wrapping that up at the United States Grand Prix such was their advantage over Ferrari.
Red Bull want more of the same this season.
The four teams that could be tempted to switch to Honda power in 2026
FIA v F1 described as an ‘open war’ with relationship ‘on the edge’
Michael Schumacher: The six biggest controversial moments of his F1 career
“I think Checo knows exactly what is expected from him,” Horner said in an interview with Auto Motor und Sport.
“And I think being Max Verstappen as a team-mate is a pretty daunting prospect for any driver. But I think Checo was handled that very well.
“Of course he was an integral part of us winning the Constructors’ Championship and finishing a very close third in the championship last year, and winning two grands prix.
“Checo has evolved since he joined the team in ’21.”
But while Perez knows what Red Bull expect, Horner isn’t letting the rest of us know what that entails.
Although last season the Briton said more than once that both drivers are free to fight for the championship title, it has been widely speculated that if it comes down to it, Perez is Red Bull’s number two.
Asked if he ‘doesn’t really see’ Perez challenging Verstappen for a championship, the team boss replied: “I think over a season with the form that Max has been in is…
“Of course he’s the man to beat, he’s the reigning World Champion, and Checo has to strive for that, otherwise why is he competing?
“But I think the reality is, all the probability is, that Max over the season is likely to be the more likely candidate for the World Championship.
“But Checo also he has the capability to be right there and we need both drivers performing at the best of their ability for the Constructors’ Championship.”