Sergio Perez’s future at Red Bull beyond this season rests in his own hands, team boss Christian Horner said ahead of the Formula 1 season-opening weekend in Bahrain.
The experienced Mexican has joined as Max Verstappen’s teammate at former world champions hoping to mount a serious title challenge and end Mercedes’s seven-year dominance.
Perez replaces Alexander Albon, who has been demoted to a reserve role after woeful 2020 compared to the Dutchman in the sister car.
“There’s nothing pre-written that it’s only a single-year deal,” Horner said of their new driver’s contract. “It depends on how he fits in the team, how he delivers. It’s very much in his own hands.
“It’s all about what they do in the car at the end of the day… it’s now down to him to make good use of it,” he told Reuters.
Perez won the Sakhir Grand Prix for Racing Point (aka Aston Martin) in Bahrain last December – his first victory after 190 starts making him the first Mexican to win a Formula 1 race for 50 years.
He had already lost his place to four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and had nowhere to go until Red Bull threw him a lifeline; Horner explained: “He was staring down the barrel of being on the bench this year.
“It was only a unique set of circumstances… that allowed us to wait until after the season to make a decision. And the back end of the year that Sergio had was so compelling that you couldn’t ignore a talent like that.”
Horner has worked with the Mexican before, having signed him for his Arden Formula Two team following Red Bull’s decision not to take him into their young driver programme. Perez then graduated to F1 with Sauber in 2011.
“He had a brilliant year in British F3 in an underdog team and so that’s why I took him in my Formula 2 team and he had some great races there,” recalled Horner.
“He was still very young, he was still very rough around the edges but his race pace and his tenacity, you could see that there was a lot of talent there.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)