Ex-Formula 1 race winner Ralf Schumacher believes Sergio Perez’s days as a Red Bull driver are “numbered” and predicts he will be replaced in 2024.
Although the Mexican driver avoided the embarrassment of being absent from Q3 for the sixth consecutive race weekend, he could only wound up ninth in qualifying in Hungary.
Perez would eventually recover to third, but he still finished 37.6s adrift of team-mate Max Verstappen, who now upholds a commanding 110-point advantage over his team-mate at the top of the standings.
His third-place finish marked only the second time Perez has visited the podium rostrum in the past six races, while Verstappen has surged to seven victories in succession.
Schumacher, winner of six F1 grands prix in his time, has questioned Perez’s mental strength and believes he lacks the consistency to ensure he remains a fixture at Red Bull beyond the end of this season.
“The mood for Sergio Perez has recently been gloomy, he wrote in his recent column.
“After numerous blunders in recent weeks, massive criticism has again poured in following his crash in the first free practice session in Hungary.
“The problem with Perez is consistency – he has too many fluctuations and is perhaps not mentally stable enough. He’s simply too far away from Max and for me, his days at Red Bull are numbered.”
Schumacher asserts that Red Bull “can’t afford” Perez to continue languishing so far behind Verstappen if another team steps up to challenge the reigning champions.
“It’s unfair of us to increase the pressure on him, but especially in the future, when other teams are getting closer, Red Bull can’t afford one driver being so clearly slower than the other,” he continued.
Although the return of Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull’s sister side, AlphaTauri, has increased the pressure on Perez, the Austrian outfit’s team boss Christian Horner has reassured the 33-year-old that his position is not under immediate threat.
However, Schumacher reckons that’s been a ploy to reduce the scrutiny on Perez and can see him being dropped at the conclusion of his third campaign with Red Bull.
“The team is logically trying to make Perez believe that his job is not in jeopardy, but I don’t think he will still be driving for Red Bull next year,” the German, 48, declared.
Perez’s recent troubles mean that Red Bull has yet to record a 1-2 finish since the Miami Grand Prix at the beginning of May.
Nevertheless, Verstappen’s relentless dominance at the front of the F1 field has ensured the Milton-Keynes squad’s unbeaten streak in 2023 has been maintained.
The two-time World Champion’s comfortable victory at the Hungaroring on Sunday saw Red Bull set a new record for the most consecutive wins in F1 history (12).
Red Bull’s lead in the Constructors’ Championship currently stands at a huge 229 points over Mercedes.