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Opinion: We Need to Calm Down About Ricciardo Replacing Perez

“How many times do I have to repeat this? Checo has a contract for 2024 and it will happen,” Dr. Helmut Marko told the media after the Mexican Grand Prix.

It couldn’t be clearer what Red Bull’s intentions are for Sergio Perez’s seat in 2024. Daniel Ricciardo may have his eyes set on his seat, but that doesn’t mean he will necessarily get it, even after a brilliant performance in Mexico.

Rumours have swirled that his Turn 1 incident and series of poor performances may see him replaced by either Ricciardo or Fernando Alonso.

To pour water on those rumours, team principal, Christian Horner, acknowledged that there is a disparity between Max Verstappen and Perez, but that Perez’s incident in Mexico was understandable.

“Yeah, I mean, very contrasting,” Horner told the media. “Another amazing race by Max today, total and utter dominance, but for Checo, just absolutely gutting home race.

“And he had a rocket ship launch and had so much momentum going into that first corner. You can’t blame him for going for it to try and take the lead at his own race.”

He added that it was “important to support” Perez especially while he’s “going through a difficult moment.”

“And I think that he was having a great weekend up until that point and he was going for the lead at his home race in Mexico City, with a crowd that it’s insane the amount of support behind him, and three into on doesn’t go and unfortunately he was just on the wrong side of it.”

Red Bull Have Been Burned For Rushing Before

Red Bull have previously rushed drivers into their seats and have come to regret their decision. They rushed Alex Albon into the seat alongside Verstappen at Red Bull, which the Thai driver later admitted he wasn’t ready for, and promptly replaced him with Perez. They saw Nyck de Vries pull out some magic in a Williams in 2022, so they quickly gave him a seat at AlphaTauri in 2023. They weren’t satisfied with his performance and he was replaced with Ricciardo.

It seems unlikely that they would once again make a rash decision to promote Ricciardo after one great performance. Let’s not forget that Ricciardo won a race during his tumultuous tenure at McLaren and that turned out to be a one-off, but there is evidence to suggest that this is a true return to form for Ricciardo.

Is Ricciardo's Revival Real?

Ricciardo’s different driving style has been noted by the team at AlphaTauri, exposing “different weaknesses” that require a “slightly different set-up direction” for Ricciardo to extract the most from the car, according to chief race engineer, Jonathan Eddolls.

“One of his big limitations has been the front end,” Eddolls explained. “So the [new set-up] directions have been able to improve the front end of the car for him, accepting the stability compromise and how that impacts the tyre temperatures through the corner and through the lap.”

This understanding has allowed Ricciardo the confidence he needs to really attack the corners and push the limit. That’s great news for Ricciardo, but that doesn’t mean he deserves the seat alongside Verstappen in 2024.

Is Ricciardo a Better Option Than Perez?

Would Ricciardo even be a better option than Perez? Yes, Perez has had a rough 2023, but he is a phenomenal driver. Ricciardo had a rough two years and many people are more than willing to give him a second chance. Why should Perez not receive the same treatment?

Perhaps it is Red Bull’s known brutality with their drivers that has set a precedent. Why should Perez be given a second chance when neither Pierre Gasly, Nyck de Vries, or Alex Albon were handed one?

To be frank, Red Bull need a consistent second to Verstappen. He is clearly a talent akin to Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, they don’t need another driver competing for the Championship, risking a Hamilton vs Rosberg situation. Granted, if Red Bull’s 2023 dominance continues until the new regulations, it might not matter as long as one of their cars win. Assuming the gains the rest of the grid have made in 2023 transfer to 2024, Red Bull won’t want any added risk to Verstappen’s dominance.

As Perez’s father, Antonio Perez, said, “… all this was built around and for Max, and he [Sergio] must respect that.”

That is what Red Bull likely want to hear which is why they aren’t going to cancel Perez’s contract. Marko has stated that Red Bull’s ideal scenario is to have Perez for 2024, they want stability, they have a good thing going. Perez will have to improve, but he has been given a chance to do so. Which is more than can be said for previous Red Bull drivers. If he doesn’t improve in 2024, then this conversation can be revisited.

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