by Morgan Piontek
Sergio Perez has been surrounded by rumors about his future with Red Bull Racing. Joining the team in 2021, he’s had many great performances. Still, his sudden drop in performance means the team may be rethinking his current contract for the 2024 season or exploring options for the 2025 season after his contract expires.
Red Bull has been notorious for replacing drivers due to lack of performance, either mid-season or after a contract expiration. They expect the best, and teaming up with Max Verstappen comes with immense pressure. Red Bull without a doubt has the best car on the grid this season, proven by winning The Constructors Championship the past two years. It is expected that both drivers will be fighting at the front of the grid consistently given the quick car they have.
Perez drove very quickly at the beginning of this season and achieved two wins and six podiums. He looked to be a possible contender for the title but the pressure got to him quickly and his performance suffered. Failing to make it into Q3 for half of the races this season, Perez needs to quickly prove he deserves his seat for 2024 with the final few races of this season. Currently, Perez sits in second place in the drivers championship, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton just 20 points behind. Rumor has it that if he does not maintain second place, he may be dropped for next season. With Verstappen winning the driver’s championship title earlier this season, Red Bull have never had both drivers secure a 1-2 in the championship which could be a major milestone for the team. Although the team has reassured the media that Perez will remain in the car for 2024, it wouldn’t be out of character for Red Bull to replace the driver.
Red Bull has a history of not putting up with a lack of performance and consistency. After Daniel Ricciardo left the team before the 2019 season, they promoted Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly to race alongside Verstappen for that season. With Gasly scoring 63 points compared to teammate Verstappen’s 181, the lack of pace was evident and the team decided to replace him mid-season. Alexander Albon was promoted to the Red Bull team, who was in his impressive debut season with Toro Rosso. Gasly was then demoted to Albon’s seat. It’s a classic driver swap.
One of their most recent actions includes replacing rookie Nyck DeVries, who was driving for Red Bull’s sister team, Alpha Tauri this season. DeVries’ F1 career looked promising due to his debut point-scoring race in Monza last year and replacing Albon who was suffering from appendicitis. Although his lack of performance and consistency this season led to his replacement after just 10 races. Being replaced by Daniel Ricciardo who impressed Red Bull during a tire test.
So with Red Bull’s sink-or-swim approach with drivers, who would get that coveted second seat next to Verstappen? Though many drivers would love to be in that seat, here are some drivers Red Bull would most likely consider replacing Perez with if they decided to take that course of action:
Daniel Ricciardo: Driving for the team from 2014 to 2018 Ricciardo scored seven Grand Prix victories and 29 podiums with Red Bull. He seems to be the team’s top candidate to replace Perez. After leaving the team in 2018 to explore other options in F1, he now drives for Alpha Tauri. Although he missed five races due to a crash in Zandvoort which left him with a broken hand, he came back as strong as ever. Most recently he qualified in fourth place for the Mexican Grand Prix, ahead of Perez in fifth. Securing a good haul of points and finishing in seventh place, he lifted Alpha Tauri from the bottom of the constructors championship to eighth place. An impressive drive given the car he has.
Liam Lawson: There’s no doubt that Lawson deserves a seat in F1, it’s just a matter of when a seat becomes available. After stepping in for Ricciardo in the Alpha Tauri while his hand was recovering, he put in great performances and scored points in one of the toughest races of the season, the Singapore Grand Prix. He proved himself to be a quick learner and can adapt to life in F1.
Lando Norris: Though the McLaren driver has a contract until 2025, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko, has been extremely vocal about his fondness for the British driver. After a winless five years with the McLaren team, Norris could be world championship material but just needs the right car to accomplish it with. The only question is if McLaren can give him a championship-winning car in the next few seasons, or else Norris may be looking elsewhere.
Fernando Alonso: Now this one may be a long shot, but because of how much pace Aston Martin has lost towards the end of this season, Alonso could be looking to switch teams yet again. Consistent podium finishes throughout the beginning half of the season sparked the possibility of winning #33 for Alonso. Still chasing that distant win, a chance in the Red Bull could bring that possibility to life. A possible driver swap could make this a reality.
Although this is a hypothetical situation that could or could not happen, it’s no secret that F1 is a brutal sport and any mistake could cost a driver their career. Any driver who makes it into F1 in the first place deserves their seat and is there for a reason. Fans never like to see any driver lose their seat, especially those of Perez’s caliber. We never know what the future holds in F1 and anything can happen, even things we would never expect.