Christian Horner says that assumptions that Sergio Perez could soon be departing Red Bull are “wide of the mark” following another disappointing qualifying outing in Austria.
For the fourth consecutive grand prix weekend, Perez failed to advance into the final qualifying segment.
In Austria, the Mexican driver had all three of his Q2 lap times deleted for breaching track limits, leaving him in 15th at the end of the session.
Horner says the team recognised that Perez had the pace to challenge Verstappen on Friday.
“He’s got the pace today,” Horner told Sky F1. “He’s got a car that was easily capable to be on the first or second row.
“He was matching Max’s times… stay in the white lines! Strike one, strike two, ‘Checo just stay in the white lines’, strike three and that was it.
“So I mean, hugely frustrating as he could have been there, he could have done it. So that’s the frustration. Fantastic to have got the pole but feels not complete.”
Perez’s team-mate Max Verstappen took pole for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, narrowly beating Charles Leclerc to the top spot.
With track limit breaches aplenty during the session, Horner says Verstappen dialled his aggressiveness back to ensure he would keep his time on the board.
“We said stay in the white lines and he [Verstappen] did that, he built a conservatism into his laps to make sure he had a wheel inside the line.
“I think it was a little bit more time in the car in that last sector if he hadn’t have gone for it. So he was driving with a bit of restraint.”
Verstappen has been the stronger performer within Red Bull in 2023 so far, and currently leads Perez by 69 points in the Drivers’ Championship.
Perez has a contract in place until 2024 and amid his recent slump in form, Horner asserts that the team is not looking to oust the 33-year-old from his seat.
“Everybody’s fully behind [him],” Horner stated. “Anybody talking about replacing Checo is wide of the mark.”