Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has declared Sergio Perez will be driving for the side in 2024, putting an end to recent rumours.
Perez’s future has come under intense speculation amid an alarming slump in form that has now dropped him 137 points behind Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen.
While Verstappen has stormed to nine consecutive race victories, Perez has only recorded four podium finishes in the nine rounds since he won in Azerbaijan.
Despite the Mexican retaining a contract for next year, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko suggested ahead of last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix that it wasn’t certain Perez would remain with the Austrian outfit beyond 2023.
However, Horner has downplayed Marko’s comments, underlining that Red Bull has an agreement with Perez contractually and that the team is content with his performances.
“Checo’s situation for next year is clear,” Horner stated on Sunday. “He’s a Red Bull Racing driver. We have an agreement with him.
“Irrelevant of agreements, we’re pleased with the job that he’s doing. You saw his drive today, he was unlucky with the pitlane speed limiter [handing him a five-second time penalty which dropped him from third to fourth].
“He’s second in the World Championship, he’s the only driver rather than Max to have won grands prix this year.
“It’s easy to beat up on him when the barometer is so high on the other side, but he will be our driver in 2024.”
Having qualified six positions and 1.3s behind Verstappen in qualifying at Zandvoort, Perez propelled into an unlikely lead when he made the inspired call to pit for Intermediate tyres at the end of Lap 1.
But Verstappen, who had rapidly fought his way back through to second after dropping to fourth, immediately eroded Perez’s advantage by a whopping 4.1s inside one lap, reducing the gap down to 3s by the point it was time to switch back to slicks.
The reigning World Champion was handed priority on the pit stops to get ahead, surviving more mixed conditions to register a record-equalling ninth straight victory.
Horner has again defended Perez by claiming nobody on the current Formula 1 grid would be able to match what Verstappen has achieved this season.
“Max is in a period of his career where he’s just simply untouchable and I don’t think there’s any driver on the grid that would be able to achieve what he’s been doing in that car,” he claimed.
“Being his team-mate is probably in some respects the most unenviable job to have because the barometer is so high.
“You’ve got to look at the performance on the timesheet and the results sheet. If Max hadn’t been there, Checo would have won another four or five races.
“So, he’s doing his job. He’s second in the World Championship. You saw his performance today. He was unlucky to get the speeding fine. And hopefully he can add to his wins before the end of the year.”