Sergio Perez‘s lack of consistency is a weakness that could cost him his Red Bull drive, Helmut Marko has said.
The Red Bull adviser also reiterated his admiration of McLaren’s Lando Norris, who is under contract with the British team until 2025.
Perez himself has alluded that he could leave if he doesn’t feel valued by Milton Keynes, potentially retiring from Formula 1 after 12 years in the sport or seeking out another seat should one be offered.
The internal situation around Perez has seen contrasting statements from Marko and team principal Christian Horner, with the latter reinforcing he will drive for the team next year.
Yet Marko has consistently warned Perez he is at risk of losing out, and took his latest swipe at the six-time Grands Prix winner following the 2023 Italian GP.
“Perez is not consistent, he is not always focused,” Marko told ServusTV. “Perez has a contract until 2024 and Norris until 2025, unfortunately it is that long.”
He added: “In terms of youth and speed, Perez is already in his 30s and is expecting his fourth child. Therefore, he also has other interests, so we have to see what happens next.”
Marko also acknowledged that any driver would struggle to match the performances of Max Verstappen, with the champion securing a record 10 victories in a row with his win at Monza.
“On the one hand, the Red Bull seat is one of the most sought-after,” the 80-year-old continued. “But on the other, you have Max as an opponent.
“Then you need a very strong personality and mentality, Perez is the one who has done the best of all the drivers in recent years and has also won races.”
Who could replace Perez at Red Bull?
Red Bull could have their pick of any driver, as they are currently the only team capable of winning a race, meaning anyone could become a title challenger overnight – should they be able to compete with the dominant Verstappen.
However, they are unlikely to pick one of the fastest out there such as Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc or Fernando Alonso simply because there is currently no need.
Taking on another ‘elite’ driver would risk disrupting the team balance, as Mercedes found out between 2014-2016, and could even cost them Verstappen, who has previously said he has no desire to repeat the 2021 season.
Among the candidates are Yuki Tsunoda, Liam Lawson and Daniel Ricciardo, who are all within the Red Bull camp. But outside of their own drivers, Norris appears to be the leading candidate.
He has received continuous praise from the team and even held talks with the Austrian outfit prior to signing an extension with McLaren.
The Brit is good friends with Verstappen, meaning that Red Bull could expect a cooperative mentality from the pair, and he is not expected to be as fast as the Dutchman – which Red Bull might have already figured out based on data cross-comparisons between Ricciardo‘s McLaren stint and his time with the famous energy drinks brand.
“He’s definitely a candidate for us,” Marko said about Norris. “At Toro Rosso we had already reached an agreement with him, until his manager realised that there was an option for a contract with McLaren.”
While Norris himself is open to the idea of pairing up with the current world champion, he remains committed the Woking-based outfit for the time being.
“It’s definitely something I would be open to in the future,” Norris said to media. I think I can say openly that Max Verstappen is probably one of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1.
“I think it would be fantastic to work alongside someone like that. At the same time, I could see where I can really face him.
“I would certainly be open to it. I invited him to McLaren the other day, so if he wants to come at any time he will be welcome.”