Red Bull is placing no pressure on Sergio Perez to secure the runner-up place in the drivers’ championship behind his team mate.
Red Bull signed Perez to a two-year deal last season. Horner said afterwards the contract “locks out the seat unless he absolutely doesn’t deliver for whatever reason in 2023 or beginning of ’24, for example.”
Verstappen clinched the drivers’ championship two weeks ago with six grands prix left to run. He goes into today’s race with a 213-point lead over his team mate which is almost double Perez’s score.
Red Bull have never previously had both its drivers finish first and second in the championship, a feat last achieved by Mercedes in 2020 and 2019. Lewis Hamilton is gaining on second-placed Perez having outscored him again in yesterday’s sprint race.
However Horner denied Perez’s place in the team will be under threat if he does not secure the team’s first drivers championship one-two.
“There’s no pre-mandate like that,” he said. “We’ve never finished first and second in a championship, we finished first and third a few times with Mark [Webber] and Sebastian [Vettel], we finished it last year with Max and Checo.
“With this car, it would be fantastic in such a season that we’ve had, if we could finish first and second. But there’s no pre-mandate on Checo that you have to finish second or you won’t be driving the car next year. That’s never been discussed.”
While Verstappen took an emphatic win in yesterday’s sprint race, Perez finished fifth, almost 23 seconds behind his team mate. Horner said Perez’s qualifying performances are still holding him back.
“He actually drove a pretty decent race,” he said. “He made decent progress.
“I think his race will be okay, his particular challenge has been on the one-lap, qualifying. When you qualify out of position it just puts you under more pressure. Hopefully he can have a good race and take some confidence out of that.”
Perez will start today’s race from seventh. “I think in terms of the work he’s done so far, the unfortunate thing for him is that the whole grid has concertinaed a bit, particularly in qualifying, so the fine margins become very expensive,” Horner added.
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