Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Erik Junius

Sergio Perez is under more pressure than ever to bounce back from a disastrous run of races if he wants to retain his Red Bull Formula 1 seat.

With team boss Christian Horner saying it is “unsustainable” for the Mexican to continue to perform as he is right now, our writers look at the possible candidates to replace him should he lose his drive.

It’s time to promote Tsunoda

The F1 world tends to underestimate Yuki Tsunoda – and that’s more a fact than an opinion.

This image of the shouty guy who crashes all the time – which doesn’t at all reflect who he is now – overshadows a lot of what he has achieved, not just since his first year in F1, but since the moment he moved to Europe.

Yuki Tsunoda, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team

Yuki Tsunoda, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Learning the language, and adapting to a new environment and culture is a huge challenge in itself, and Tsunoda has combined that with some amazing performances in junior categories. And it was his raw speed that made up for a lot during the time when he couldn’t even properly communicate with his engineers.

What needs to be recognised more now is how much work Tsunoda has put in since then to get himself to the level he is at now in all areas, be it physical condition, understanding of the car and the set-up – and that’s what has left the biggest impression on those who work with him in Faenza. There were times when he literally turned up at the factory every day between races.

For all the funny videos on social media – including one where drivers talk about how they dream of winning the title and then it cuts to a misleading shot of Tsunoda saying he wants to open a restaurant – he’s shown a lot of determination – and that has resulted in a quality step forward this year.

He’s been the fastest of the two VCARB drivers for most of the season so far; he’s in his fourth year of F1; he’s got experience and the speed is still there, so why not reward that with a promotion?

Red Bull has done crazier things in the past, promoting Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly just a year and a half after their respective F1 debuts, or Alex Albon after just six months. For me, Tsunoda is a lot more prepared than they were.

Yes, there are still a few rough edges – and it shows from time to time this year. But of the four Red Bull drivers, he’s clearly the second-best now. So why not? It’s hard to imagine him being worse than what Perez is showing now. — Oleg Karpov

Red Bull should go for broke and get Piastri

If Red Bull is serious about signing a ready-made title challenger, then it should forget about Yuki Tsunoda, Liam Lawson and Daniel Ricciardo and break the bank to sign Oscar Piastri.

The Aussie is under contract at McLaren until 2026 but as we have seen in Formula 1, everything has a price – and this is one worth paying.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL30

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL30

Photo by: Erik Junius

Piastri would offer Red Bull a low-maintenance foil to Max Verstappen but one who possesses enough speed to keep the Dutchman on his game, without any fuss.

For me, Piastri has been one of the standout performers of the last 18 months, going about his business and quietly delivering solid results with very few individual errors, unlike his team-mate Lando Norris.

Still only 23, Piastri would be an ideal fit into Red Bull’s environment and he’d get the full warts-and-all version from ex-Red Bull driver, Mark Webber, who acts as his manager. There would be no surprises in a negative manner.

If this looks like a break with Red Bull’s young driver programme, then that’s because it’s broken already when it signed the man now looking to be replaced.

Red Bull knows everything it needs to know about the other candidates on this list while the jury is out on its other young driver, Isack Hadjar, despite him leading the Formula 2 championship.

It’s time Red Bull cuts its losses and moves on from the Perez gamble and picks someone who can actually deliver on a consistent basis, while also someone with the potential of winning the title in the future. It might cost Red Bull a fair whack to buy him out of his McLaren contract, but it would be worth it in the end. — Ben Hunt

Lawson is ready for prime time

Red Bull seems to have finally woken up to the risk of leaving Perez flailing as Verstappen’s team-mate now it’s having regular, real battles for Formula 1 race victories.

In testing Liam Lawson in a Silverstone filming day on Thursday, it can solve this issue and the junior driver logjam its various missteps since promoting Verstappen so rapidly have led too.

Liam Lawson, Reserve Driver, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team

Liam Lawson, Reserve Driver, Visa Cash App RB F1 Team

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

All Red Bull needs to do is promote Lawson directly to the senior team. It would be a massive challenge given the brilliance and expectation for a car such as the RB20, but it would be an equally huge opportunity for the New Zealander. In scoring points while replacing the injured Daniel Ricciardo last year, Lawson has already shown he can deal with both pressure and expectation.

Skipping the RB step also solves the issue of Red Bull’s junior team line-up. Tsunoda is cemented there, with seemingly no hope of advancement as Red Bull isn’t sold on his ability to deal with pressure – especially that generated going up against Verstappen.

But Ricciardo’s future is much less certain, with this move giving him stability and keeping the blue-chip sponsors Red Bull was so keen to attract it led to the creation of one of the worst team names in F1 history.

Ultimately, Red Bull wants RB to test juniors. Lawson has already shown he can pass such assessment when it was AlphaTauri, and installing him ahead of Perez would grant RB more time – for Lawson and Ricciardo to respectively sink or swim, and the much younger and inexperienced Arvid Lindblad to shine in the lower categories. — Alex Kalinauckas

Sainz is the safe choice

Events of the past few weeks have underlined Red Bull’s need to have as strong a team-mate possible for Verstappen. Someone fast, technically gifted, experienced, a proven race winner, and someone who can handle the pressure of delivering for a top team. Now who might that be on the current list of free agents? Right, enter Carlos Sainz.

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Sainz’s dependable performances alongside Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, and especially his excellent wins in Singapore and Melbourne, have raised his profile over the past 18 months. That has made his impending Ferrari departure quite harsh, and his dithering over choosing between Williams, Audi and Alpine suggests he too is holding out hope that the door to a race-winning team like Red Bull or Mercedes could yet re-open.

Verstappen-Sainz didn’t go particularly well the first time around at Toro Rosso, partly due to the behind-the-scenes politicking of driver entourages, particularly by the former, which fomented what Helmut Marko called a “toxic” relationship.

This may well be a large part of the reason why Red Bull passed over Sainz in the first place when he became available, but if it doesn’t work out with Perez, then it might have to reconsider that given the other options that are on the table.

Ricciardo was brought back as a plan B, and while he has put in much more solid performances in recent races, it is hard to see Christian Horner perform a U-turn on a driver considered for the chop. Like it or not, Red Bull’s strong man doesn’t trust Tsunoda enough to be thrust into the high-pressure Red Bull hot seat. Lawson has only a handful of grand prix appearances under his belt, so putting him straight into the Red Bull makes little sense either.

So if Red Bull is serious about having two top-level drivers helping the squad retain its constructors’ titles, it might have to find a way to make Sainz work. Following the most recent spat between Horner and Verstappen’s father Jos in Austria, the question is if the squad can create a more stable environment for that to work out this time. — Filip Cleeren

Replace Perez with… Perez

Wait, hang on. Are we seriously suggesting that Red Bull should just stick with its luckless underperformer? In this entry, yes, and we’ll show our working.

Motorsport is a famously unsentimental discipline, especially when it comes to the drivers owned by a manufacturer of caffeine-laden and ambiguously flavoured canned beverages. Christian Horner and Helmut Marko are equally guilty of viewing drivers as disposable; instead of backing them when times get tough, they’re shown the door at the slightest hint of trouble. Just ask Daniil Kvyat, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Nyck de Vries, Jean-Eric Vergne, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon, Sebastien Bourdais, et al.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Perez has gone through the same post-Miami sudden loss of form before, losing his mojo last year at the same point in the calendar. Ideas that have been previously touted include car development moving away from him, a confidence-crippling defeat meted upon him by Max Verstappen, Mercury in retrograde, getting out of bed on the wrong side…but evidently, neither Red Bull nor Perez has really understood it. And that’s a failing on Red Bull’s part, in that it couldn’t help Perez get through his 2023 rough spot until late in the year and is considering ditching him now.

Perez, as a driver, isn’t this bad. Sure, he’s responsible for the biggest average finishing gap to a team-mate since Michael Schumacher’s rotating cast of team-mates across 1994-95, but much of that relates directly to these mystifying declines. And he managed to bounce back at the end of last year, so it must be reversible. Yet, something has created this situation again, and Red Bull is busy giving Perez’s measurements to the undertaker rather than finding a solution.

Red Bull made the decision to extend Perez’s contract earlier this year, seemingly in a bid to calm Perez down, but it hasn’t worked. In that, the team has fundamentally misunderstood the issue and at least owes it to him to see the season out.

And if neither party can find a way to get the Guadalajara-born racer fit and firing again, then it might be time to part ways – but for now, there’s no reason to change, unless Red Bull really has tried everything to get Perez feeling comfortable. And, given its track record with drivers, one doubts that it has. — Jake Boxall-Legge

Watch: British GP Race Review – Hamilton Returns To The Top

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