Marko hints at scrapped 2024 contract for Perez
"He has to get out of this negative spiral"
Sergio Perez’s future at Red Bull and in Formula 1 is on shakier ground than ever following yet another sub-standard outing - this time in Qatar.
It was the off-form Mexican’s sprint race crash on Saturday that mathematically sealed the lid on teammate Max Verstappen’s third consecutive drivers’ title.
Had had qualified a poor 13th, and then scored just a single point in the main race on Sunday due to repeated violations of ’track limits’.
It means his second place in the drivers’ championship is now at risk from Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton - who is just 30 points behind Perez with five races to go.
"I think we need to talk to him (Perez) to understand what happened," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said afterwards.
Perez explained: "For me it was difficult to judge where exactly the limits of the track were.
"To me, it all seems like a joke to come out and modify everything at the last minute like this," he said, referring to the last-minute track alterations due to kerb issues.
Perez added: "It has been a frustrating race. I am very disappointed for having failed my team. It was a poor weekend."
Horner continued: "He had a tough race and a very tough weekend and we will continue to give him our full support. He’s still second in the drivers’ standings, but he urgently needs to get back into shape."
Perez, 33, already has a contract for 2024, but it is clear that Red Bull is not completely ruling-out a shakeup.
"He has to get out of this negative spiral," Dr Helmut Marko told Sky Deutschland. "There were fast laps in between, but it doesn’t help with all these penalties."
As far as many pundits are concerned, Perez should be worried about his seat.
"I think if an alternative were on the market now, he would be replaced," said 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg. "But he’s too far away right now. It’s extreme."
The problem, Rosberg explained, is that the alternatives to Perez may not be ready for the job.
"You can’t just put Liam Lawson in the Red Bull now, because who knows how that would go. That would be too high a risk," said the German.
"Even Daniel (Ricciardo) would be a certain risk because we haven’t seen much of him yet."
Red Bull’s notorious driver czar Marko, however, is clearly now piling even more pressure on Perez’s shoulders.
"The gap is simply too big at the moment, because second place in the world championship is also at risk now," he told ORF.
As for Perez’s 2024 contract, Marko added: "In general we want to implement the contractual situation, which lasts until 2024. And that’s entirely up to him now.
"But then we have three relatively good drivers in Alpha Tauri," the 80-year-old warned, also referring to Yuki Tsunoda as well as Lawson and Ricciardo.
"Let’s see how this develops further. But we assume that Checo will find his old strength again."
More on Red Bull