Sergio Perez has been instructed by Christian Horner that he must improve his qualifying performances in 2024 to aid his hopes of staying at Red Bull.
Perez's contract expires at the end of 2024, with the Red Bull seat not short of suitors, with Daniel Ricciardo making it clear he wants to return to the seat he left after 2018.
In 2023, Perez failed to capitalise on a strong start to the season, not winning any race after Azerbaijan although he did pull himself out of a slump in form to rescue second place in the Drivers' - his highest career finish.
The middle part of the six-time Grand Prix winner's 2023 season was wrecked by poor qualifying performances, including a run from Monaco to Britain where he failed to make Q3, only doing in once again in Hungary.
The worry for Red Bull is that if the field converges in 2024, Perez's lowly qualifying positions and the need to recover will harm its Constructors' Championship chances - a worry it did not have in 2023 with the sizeable advantage of the RB19 over the pack.
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"Checo is a very capable racer and being Max's team-mate is a very tough gig," Horner explained to Sky Sports.
"I think he has shown real mental strength to be able to cope with that. The area he needs to focus on is Saturday; making sure that his average qualifying is a lot closer to Max.
"We need him starting further up the grid, particularly if the grid is going to converge. We can't afford to have a lot of cars between him and Max.
"2024 is a big year. A lot of drivers' contracts are coming to a close. We've got great talent in our own stable.
"Of course the car is very attractive for other drivers to want to be in.
"Checo is our driver. If he does well, we'll want to keep him for 2025, but it's all about how he performs in relation to his team-mate."
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