F1 2023: Daniel Ricciardo one of ‘three good drivers’ ready to replace Sergio Perez, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko piles pressure on

Red Bull supremo Helmut Marko has piled more pressure on Sergio Perez, warning the struggling Mexican the team has “three good drivers” lining up to replace him.

Perez’s form has completely deserted him after he began the F1 season with two early race wins, while Max Verstappen has enjoyed a record-breaking year as he wrapped up his third world title in a row.

Verstappen has already won 14 races this season and will likely add to that tally at the remaining five races. Perez has scored just five championship points in his last three races.

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Perez is hanging onto second place in the drivers’ championship (30 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton) and is contracted until the end of 2024, but Red Bull is becoming increasingly concerned about his form as other teams including McLaren come to grips with F1’s regulations.

Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, said the team would like to honour Perez’s contract but pressure is mounting on the 33-year-old to turn his form around.

“The gap is simply too big at the moment because second place in the World Championship is also at risk now,” he told Austrian broadcaster ORF after the Qatar Grand Prix, where Perez finished 10th.

“In general we want to implement the contractual situation, which lasts until 2024. And that’s entirely up to him now.”

Red Bull and its sister team AlphaTauri have already announced their driver line-ups for next season, with Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda to drive for AlphaTauri while Verstappen and Perez continue at Red Bull.

Kiwi youngster Liam Lawson has shown he deserves a full-time F1 seat while filling in for Ricciardo and Marko hinted Red Bull won’t be afraid to shake things up given the calibre of options waiting to replace Perez.

“Checo has to deliver now,” Marko said.

“We have three drivers in the AlphaTauri team, and Lawson is a reserve driver for four cars. A lot can happen.”

“Now it becomes critical when two such strong drivers are in the McLaren,”

“I hope we can save second place (in the drivers’ championship). It looked quite comfortable for a while, but now the lead is melting.”

Marko’s comments come after Red Bull team principal Horner said he would sit down with Perez for crisis talks of sort in a bid to finish the season on a high and claim second in the drivers’ championship.

“I think we really need to sit down with Checo because we know what he’s capable of and he’s really not hitting that form at the moment,” Horner said.

“We desperately need him to find his form to keep that second place in the championship.

“But we’ll support him as much as we can because with the triple header coming up, there’s a huge amount of points coming up with sprint races as well.

“We all know what Checo’s capable of and we want to support him to get back into a position, where … even as near ago as Monza he was finishing second place to Max.”

The F1 season continues at the United States Grand Prix on Monday October 23.

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