Sergio Perez insists he is unfazed by the return of Daniel Ricciardo to Red Bull ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 season.
The likeable Australian signed as a reserve driver for the world champions after a torrid spell at McLaren was cut short, leading many to suggest he would once again suit up for the Milton Keynes-based outfit alongside Max Verstappen in 2024.
However, at the launch of Red Bull‘s RB19, Perez said he was unconcerned by the threat posed, predicting instead that Ricciardo‘s input will be invaluable in the championship fight.
“When you are at Red Bull Racing you perform at your best,” Perez said. “It doesn’t matter if Daniel [Ricciardo] is good or not, you know, Red Bull can pick pretty much any driver they want in the grid.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have Daniel, the level of experience that he has. And to be able to have him back at the factory with the engineers, he really knows when we are talking about the car, he will really understand what we’re talking about.
“So I think it’s great to have someone like him around and especially on weekends, it will be a massive help.”
The big news to come out of the launch was the return of Ford to the sport as part of an agreement to supply engines for Red Bull from 2026.
Perez admits it’s something he’d love to be a part of but is well aware three years is a long time in F1.
“It’s such a long time away that I’m not really thinking about it, but right now, if you ask me, yeah, I want to be in this sport certainly for much longer than ’24.
“But it’s a lot of time, many years. So yeah, I just want to wait and see. But it’s certainly very exciting and I’d love to be part of it.”
Target for the season
Perez enjoyed a strong start to F1’s new era of ground-effect aerodynamics in 2022.
The 33-year-old registered five podiums in the first eight races, including a win at Monaca, to put himself in the hunt for a maiden world title.
His challenge, however, swiftly fell away as Red Bull‘s car development appeared at odds with the Mexican’s driving style.
With the off-season to get to the bottom of his struggles, Checo is hoping to mount a more sustained title bid in 2023.
“I want to maximise the car potential that we get and I want to be fighting for the win every weekend,” Perez added. “I’m really working hard for it and that’s my main target.
“I have done a lot of work with the engineers over the winter to make sure we understood those races. We took some direction with the set-up that perhaps were the wrong ones. And yeah, I think towards the end of the year we understood them.”
The 2023 pecking order
Anticipation is ramping up for the F1 2023 season, with many hoping the chasing pack can close the gap to Red Bull at the front.
Mercedes, in particular, underperformed in 2022, picking up just one win in a season blighted by a lack of straight-line speed as the W13 suffered badly from porpoising.
There were, however, signs that the eight-time champions had gotten to the root cause of their issues in the latter part of 2022, and Perez expects them and Ferrari to be right on the pace when the lights go out in Bahrain.
“It’s really hard to know at the moment, you certainly saw Mercedes has been very competitive towards the end of the season, similar to Ferrari, so I will expect them to be to be up there,” Perez continued.
“It’s important to work as a team in that regard. We want to maximise the team effort, it’s not all about Max and myself. We have so many people back in the factory giving everything for us so we have to respond.
“I’m working very hard on my side with my engineers to make sure that we are able to go to the next step.”