Red Bull driver Sergio Perez isn’t backing down from the threat of Daniel Ricciardo potentially stealing his seat in 2023.
After linking back up with his old team as a reserve driver for the upcoming season, many pundits believe Ricciardo could swoop in and land back on the grid.
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Tensions between Perez and back-to-back F1 world champion Max Verstappen boiled over last season and it’s that rift that has many believing the door could be ajar for the Aussie to take the seat alongside Verstappen.
Perez however wasn’t biting when asked the potential of losing out to the fan-favourite Aussie, instead offering up some glowing praise for his new teammate.
“We are in a fantastic place to have Daniel, such an experienced driver who knows Red Bull from his time here. Although the car is very different to when he was here, it’s still something he knows pretty well,” Perez said.
“We’re really lucky to take advantage of him and the work he’s going to be doing. In terms of pressure, it’s always there – it doesn’t matter if Daniel is here, or anyone. I’m a Red Bull driver, and when you’re a Red Bull driver you have to deliver. It’s no different to any other year.”
Perez is contracted through until the end of the 2024 season, but if tensions between he and Verstappen grow or if he struggles to make an impact the constructor’s champion could make a bold switch.
With Red Bull’s prior history of changing team makeup on a whim, former F1 star turned commentator David Coulthard says Perez’s destiny is “in his own hands”.
“He has access to the data of the world champion.
“If he does, then the world championship is there for him to put his hand on.
“If he doesn’t, then he will be another driver that won a few grands prix.”
Red Bull historically have not been averse to swapping teammates around their two-team set up – Verstappen himself joined the team from junior team Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) in 2016 before the Spanish Grand Prix, replacing Russian Daniil Kvyat.
Ricciardo departed the Milton Keynes outfit in 2019, after which the revolving door of teammates for Verstappen continued – Frenchman Pierre Gasly was promoted from Toro Rosso, only to be demoted before season’s end in favour of Thai driver Alexander Albon, who himself lost his place in at the end of 2020 for Sergio Perez.
Ricciardo’s move to Red Bull as a reserve, rejecting race seat offers at smaller teams Williams and Haas, has been roundly criticised across the F1 paddock.
Journalist Will Buxton said: “I’d argue he stands to gain nothing.”
Former World Champion Jenson Button also criticised the move, saying he was taking a huge gamble on a “team where he thinks he can get a seat for 2024, otherwise it’s game over because you get forgotten after a year in F1.”
Despite Ricciardo’s projected A$36 million in earnings next year off the back of his McLaren payout and Red Bull deal, his manager insists “none of this is about ego or unachievable demands.”
“This is about a man who was dealt a bad hand, now finding the right next opportunity.”