NOVEMBER 20, 2023

Perez pressure lifts near end of Red Bull's perfect season

Persistent rumours suggesting Sergio Perez may be ousted by Red Bull for 2024 are likely to now evaporate, as he clinched second overall in the drivers' world championship in Las Vegas.

Sergio Perez, Las Vegas GP 2022
© Red Bull

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton can no longer overtake the Mexican for the runner-up prize this weekend in Abu Dhabi, marking the first time in Red Bull's history that it has clinched both first and second in the drivers' table.

Toto Wolff, Hamilton's team boss, says it's an uninteresting achievement to him.

P2 or P3 is completely uninteresting to me, he told Sky Deutschland. "It's about winning.

It makes a difference for the employees, including financially, but I don't really care.

From a financial perspective, it is the constructors' championship that really matters to Formula 1 teams, and Mercedes heads to the season finale in Abu Dhabi a mere 4 points ahead of Ferrari.

In a thrilling race in Las Vegas late on Saturday, Charles Leclerc finished just two seconds behind Red Bull's dominant Max Verstappen at the chequer.

Verstappen unbeatable? Ferrari boss Frederic Vasseur said after the race. "They are dominating, but we are not that far from reaching them.

What we have to think about now is the next race and Mercedes, as they are only four points from us and I'm sure we can catch them in the constructors' standings, the Frenchman added.

So with Mercedes second and third at the end of the season, former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher thinks Red Bull should be starting to feel the breath at the back of their necks.

They're under a bit of pressure, he said. The other teams are getting closer.

With his Las Vegas victory, though, Verstappen matched Sebastian Vettel's 53 career victories - with only Ralf's brother Michael (91) and Lewis Hamilton (103) now to go.

Definitely based on age and talent, he can do it, Schumacher said. "The only question is whether he wants to keep racing for so long.

But I suppose another question is whether he will always have such a good car. I think that will be the case next year, but he then needs to take good care of Adrian Newey so that it continues like this, he smiled.

As for Verstappen's teammate Perez, his runner-up trophy and the end to his performance slump will likely now silence all the rumours about his short-term future at Red Bull.

When asked about Max's victory on Saturday, Marko said: "Let's start by talking about Checo. He was last after the first lap and drove sensationally.

But the one-two is what we really wanted and it was the only thing missing from our perfect season, he told Servus TV.

As for Max, both Marko and Verstappen's father Jos think his achievements in 2023, including 18 wins in 2023 alone and counting, are likely to stand in history perhaps forever.

Quite a good average, Marko laughed. Max might end up with 19 out of 22 in Abu Dhabi and then I don't expect something like that to happen again soon.

Verstappen senior added in Las Vegas: "All these records and victories - I don't think we'll ever see them being surpassed.

Max doesn't care about records at all, but I'm quite proud of it, yes. Things cannot get much better than they are now. But let's see how it goes on.