Since being promoted to Oracle Red Bull Racing at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has had four different team-mates, yet out of the four, it’s Sergio Pérez who has received the most criticism. Considering he claimed second in the 2023 Drivers’ Championship, what more does the Mexican need to do?
Verstappen and Pérez secured Red Bull’s first ever 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship this year, courtesy of the duo winning twenty-one of the twenty-two races this year. For an outsider, they’d likely be puzzled to hear that Checo has been on the receiving end of criticism based on the first statistic, yet further stats highlight why.
In 2023, Pérez was responsible for only two of the twenty-one victories, whilst he also ended the campaign almost three-hundred points behind Verstappen. Red Bull had by far the best car on the grid; however, Pérez rarely made the most of it. He failed to progress to the final stage of qualifying on more than a handful of occasions, whilst Verstappen started from pole eleven times.
Whilst he recovered well at the likes of the Australian Grand Prix and Spanish GP, he struggled to make any progress in Monaco – this is understandable – or at the returning Qatar Grand Prix. He was also responsible for some embarrassing driver errors, notably in Australia and Monaco where he crashed in the opening minutes of qualifying.
The Japanese Grand Prix was also a weekend to forget for Pérez after he retired from the race twice, the second of which after rejoining the race to serve two five-second time penalties.
Unsurprisingly, he was linked with the oust for 2024 despite having a deal for next season, because of his mid-season downward spiral. To end the speculation, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner stressed on several occasions that Pérez will be retained. Daniel Ricciardo is the driver whose been linked with his seat the most and is widely expected to replace Checo in 2025.
There is no doubting that Pérez should’ve been closer to Verstappen in 2023 and failed to extract the RB19’s full potential on a regular basis, but considering he still sealed second in the Drivers’ Championship, what more does he need to do?
If he were to take the fight to Verstappen regularly, it’d cause unnecessary intra-team tension for Red Bull to deal with, something they certainly don’t need at a time when they’re trying to make the most of their dominance. Pérez is in many ways the perfect number two driver, as he is capable of winning the odd race as well as support Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship.
With that in mind, why has he received more criticism than Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon combined? Ricciardo chose to leave Red Bull himself at the end of 2018, whilst many felt that Gasly and Albon were dropped unfairly.
The better question to ask is what exactly do Red Bull want in a second driver? Someone who is fast and experienced but won’t take the fight to Verstappen (Pérez)? A young, hungry driver with a point to prove and an urge to be the best (Liam Lawson or Lando Norris)? Or a former star who wants one last chance at winning a title (Ricciardo)?
Red Bull have 12 months to decide what they want for the good of the team, with most having criticised Pérez more for the good of Formula 1’s entertainment. Pérez was slammed for not matching Verstappen, something which if he had of done, would’ve resulted in a title fight. As mentioned, Red Bull wouldn’t have wanted this but the fans would’ve.
From a team perspective, what more does Pérez have to do to be given a new deal for 2025?