Red Bull boss Christian Horner has thrown his support behind Sergio Perez, declaring the Mexican driver will still be racing for the team in 2024. Speculation has been mounting that Daniel Ricciardo will be brought in to replace Perez next year, while there have also been rumours that Red Bull want Fernando Alonso.
Ricciardo started the year as a reserve driver for Red Bull but was promoted to a full-time drive with AlphaTauri three months ago. His form in a sub-par car has led to calls for Red Bull to promote him even further to be Max Verstappen's No.2 driver in 2024.
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But Horner made it clear on Friday that Perez is their man and they want him around next year. "I am absolutely confident and clear that Checo (Perez) will be our driver next year," Horner told motorsport.com.
"Now, if he was injured or something like that, there are circumstances beyond our control. But the clear plan and therefore the clear intention is that he will continue. We're planning to continue. We have announced the AlphaTauri drivers, we have our Red Bull Racing drivers. That is how we intend to go racing in 2024."
Perez is currently second in the F1 driver standings on 258 points, behind Red Bull teammate and reigning champion Verstappen. The Dutch driver is on 524 points and has already clinched his third-straight world title.
Perez crashed on the first lap of the Mexican Grand Prix late last month in front of his home fans. Horner addressed Perez's future at the time and his use of the word "intention" created speculation about the team's plans moving forward.
"Checo (Perez) has an agreement with us for next year and that's our intention, for him to be in the car in 2024," Horner said in Mexico. "We'll give him all the support we can to ensure that he finishes second (in the drivers' standings), but there's no prerequisite that if he doesn't finish second, you're out."
Christian Horner throws support behind Sergio Perez
Horner said rumours that Perez's relationship with the team has soured have been treated as "noise on the outside. On the inside, everything is clear." He said Perez can handle the rumours and speculation, even if they affect him.
"I'm sure it does," Horner said. "But I think what we've seen with him, and one of his strengths, is he has a very thick skin. Many times he's picked himself up, brushed himself and got back up again. So, hopefully, he's doing the same now."
Ricciardo made a name for himself in his first stint at Red Bull at the start of his career, but moved on to Renault and eventually McLaren when Verstappen overtook him as No.1 driver. Discussing the situation in Brazil last week, Verstappen said he'd happily reunite with his Aussie former teammate.
"It's not up to me at the end of the day to make these kind of decisions because I'm very focused on my own performance," Verstappen said. "So if it's Checo (Perez) next year, then great. I have had a great working relationship with him but also personally I think he's a great guy.
"And if it's Daniel then also we will get along fine and we have a great time. F1 can be a tough sport. You're asking these kinds of questions but maybe also nothing happens right? We will see."
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