The Red Bull driver is under the most intense scrutiny as the Hungarian Grand Prix gets underway on Saturday. Pérez, who has not seen a Q3 since the beginning of May’s Miami Grand Prix, did not have a good Friday.
During a wet and sloppy FP1, Pérez briefly drove his RB19 onto the grass, resulting in a spinout that sent his Red Bull car careening into the barriers and terminating his first practice of the weekend.
While his crew diligently prepared his RB19 for FP2, Pérez’s struggles persisted. In the second session on Friday, he was only able to score a P18.
Worse yet, he posted his fastest time on the soft compound but finished behind every other driver who utilized the soft compound.
Oscar Piastri and George Russell, the two drivers who finished ahead of him, posted their fastest times on the mediums.
Following the session, Pérez expressed optimism for the upcoming weekend.
“Today’s incident in FP1 was an error on my part. With the new tire format this weekend, it was wonderful to get some good information and data to analyze. The Team did a fantastic job of putting the car back together so that we could get some laps in during FP2. Regarding our new upgrades, it is too early to comment and comprehend how they will be utilized, but tomorrow we will have a greater understanding. Finally, I am optimistic about qualifying tomorrow, and everything is in position for a solid weekend.”
Pérez also took to social media to acknowledge his team’s efforts in preparing his RB19 for FP2.
Thank you to the mechanics in the garage for their outstanding work getting the car back on track for FP2. For better emotions tomorrow, we will give it our absolute best effort.
Gracias a todo mi equipo en el garaje por el tremendo trabajo que hicieron para devolver el… pic.twitter.com/mOo62ruG1o
Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) July 21, 2023
However optimistic he may be, he is under increasing pressure to improve his form, especially during qualifying. In recent weeks, even teammate Max Verstappen has added to the urgency, stating at the British Grand Prix that Q3 should be a “minimum” for the team given the potency of the RB19.
Moreover, there is the perennial “silly season” factor. Red Bull has been, shall we say, “less than patient” with their second driver, despite the fact that Pérez is technically under contract through the 2024 season.
Several drivers mentioned this fact during Thursday’s media sessions when discussing the dismissal of Nyck de Vries from AlphaTauri.
When queried about the team’s decision to release de Vries, Lewis Hamilton responded, “That’s the Red Bull way.” “I’d say that’s how Red Bull works.”
Valtteri Bottas stated that Red Bull has taken similar decisions in the past. They evidently adhere to their opinion of what is best.
Lando Norris added, “Many other drivers have experienced this.” “I am aware that it has occurred in that team more than in any other team. It is ruthless because it involves someone’s livelihood.”
The combination of Pérez’s struggles and Red Bull’s past has led to widespread speculation about his future with the team. While such rumors were already percolating, Daniel Ricciardo’s return to the grid has amplified them considerably. Ricciardo himself has referred to a possible return to Red Bull as his “fairytale ending,” a sentiment that Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has echoed in recent days.
Then there is Yuki Tsunoda, Ricciardo’s new teammate. Tsunoda’s performance may factor into the team’s decision to replace De Vries in order to gain a better perspective on his performance. At AlphaTauri, Tsunoda was performing better than De Vries, having qualified ahead of him in seven of ten races and earning the team’s lone point of the season.
Was that a result of his own development or De Vries’ difficulties? With Ricciardo on board, AlphaTauri and Red Bull will have a more definitive response to this query.
Dan Drury, a former member of Red Bull, stated on social media following Friday’s Q1 crash that the driver required “something special” to save his seat in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Checo is well into the second seat of the Red Bull death spiral.
Marko will give him the boot for next season’s photo if he doesn’t do something extraordinary this weekend. twitter.com/nkwmjiQRGG
— Dan, EngineMode11 (@EngineMode11) July 21, 2023
All of these concerns are in the background as Pérez takes to the track on Saturday, a potentially pivotal day for his F1 career. If he advances to Q3 for the first time since May and takes the RB19 to the front of the grid for Sunday’s race, The tension may lessen slightly.
But if he continues to falter, he may move closer to the exit.