- Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh in Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday
- Sergio Perez crashed out at the first corner of his home race
- The Mexican is under contract with Red Bull until the end of next season
Daniel Ricciardo looks poised for a return to Red Bull next season after Sergio Perez received the equivalent of the football manager’s vote of confidence.
The 33-year-old Perez crashed out of the Mexican Grand Prix at the first corner when an over-exuberant move saw him bumped off the track into retirement in a race won by his team-mate Max Verstappen.
Team principal Christian Horner declined to commit to keeping the out-of-form Perez for 2024, despite the Mexican having a year to run on his existing contract.
While diplomatic about Perez, Horner was notably complimentary about Ricciardo’s performance over the weekend, calling it ‘remarkable’.
The Australian driver, 34, qualified an impressive fourth for Red Bull’s junior team AlphaTauri and finished seventh, their best result of the year.
Daniel Ricciardo could be set to return to Red Bull next season in place of Sergio Perez
The Mexican crashed out in the opening lap of his home Grand Prix on Sunday
Asked if he would stand by Perez, Horner’s answer came with provisos. ‘Yes, he has got three races to cover off that second place,’ he said.
‘There are 20 points between him and Lewis [Hamilton, a strong runner-up for Mercedes in Mexico].
‘He has had some misfortunate and some issues, but we still believe he can do it between now and the end of the year.’
Pressed on whether finishing second was a condition of remaining at the world championship-winning team, Horner said: ‘It is not as binary as that. You have to look at the circumstances and so on, and Checo [Perez] has an agreement with us for next year and it is our intention for him to be in the car in 2024.
‘We will give him all the support he needs to ensure he finishes second, but there is no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second he is out of the team.’
In contrast, Horner waxed lyrical about Ricciardo, who was handed the AlphaTauri seat before the summer break.
He won seven of his eight grands prix at Red Bull before moving to Renault in 2019, prior to a curiously difficult two seasons at McLaren.
Red Bull chief Christian Horner declined to confirm Perez would be with the team next year
Ricciardo finished seventh in Mexico as delivered AlphaTauri’s best result of the season
Horner said: ‘It was great to see Daniel perform so well and it endorses our decision to bring him back [at AlphaTauri].
‘I thought he was outstanding this weekend, fighting a Mercedes in an AlphaTauri, and, if it weren’t for the red flag, he would have finished further up.
‘It was a remarkable performance from him. He is back to his old self. He is relaxed and confident.’
There is an easy solution open to Horner, namely placing Perez at AlphaTauri in Ricciardo’s place. That looks the most likely outcome right now.