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Red Bull Racing

The big question mark hanging over Red Bull in 2024

Red Bull is coming off the most dominant season in Formula 1 history, but faces one big question mark heading into the 2024 season.

Perez Abu Dhabi
Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

There are three important factors when it comes to determining how successful a Formula 1 team will be in the coming season.

One, and perhaps the most important, is the car itself. Have you been able to find improvements here and enhance performance there to keep yourself ahead of the competition, especially coming off the back of a season where you won 21 of 22 races, got 860 points and left the rest scatching their heads about what to do next?

Whilst you've been busy fine-tuning the machine and pouring millions into the new car, as equally an important factor are the two squishy organic bits in the middle that are expected to race and extract the very drops of performance from both themselves and their equipment.

For Red Bull heading into 2024, it has two of the three ticked off and will be of no concern. Given the pace advantage it held in 2023, Red Bull's rivals will not be able to make up all of it in one winter. Chunks can certainly be taken out of the advantage, but closing the chasm in one go would need a miracle from Mercedes, Ferrari or McLaren and an implosion of a scale rarely seen by Red Bull.

As for the drivers, one of them has just come off the most dominant campaign by any driver in history with 19 wins, 575 points and 1,003 laps led.

So there are no concerns about Max Verstappen, but there are around Sergio Perez following his struggles in 2023.

Perez's battle with himself

Plenty has been written about how Perez cannot quite match Verstappen's aggressive driving style with the Dutchman preferring a razor-sharp front-end and instant response on turn-in whilst Perez's style is for more understeer in the car.

Team boss Christian Horner rubbished claims in 2023 that Red Bull was deliberately designing the car around Verstappen's style, and in the middle of Perez's alarming slump in form, highlighted that Perez had been beaten Verstappen fair and square in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

Perez found himself in a vicious circle after being passed for the lead in Miami when he started on pole and Verstappen was only ninth on the grid. That was the effective end of the championship as Perez could not quite square that he had failed to win a race he should have.

Crashing heavily in Monaco was the start of a rut that continued through the European season, although he did collect podiums in Austria, Hungary, Belgium and Italy, with a run of failing to make Q3 between Monaco and Hungary particularly galling.

Fast forward to Japan and Qatar, and Perez was flailing badly with Qatar probably the lowest point of his F1 career, but he snapped the slump with a good, solid drive to fourth in the United States.

It was spectacular but provided evidence to Red Bull that the Mexican is capable of hauling himself out of a hole and executing what Red Bull need from him.

Like Rubens Barrichello, Mark Webber and Valtteri Bottas before him, Perez is realising that in a straight fight, he is not going to beat the all-time great across the garage over the course of a season.

That is not what Red Bull need him to do. Perez's job is to simply be the number two, finish on the podium and hoover up when the car or Verstappen fail.

F1 is now in the Verstappen-era, and Perez will not be the driver to break the now three-time World Champion, and the vultures are circling to grab the most prized (and poisoned) seat in F1, alongside Verstappen.

The seat at Red Bull is Perez's to lose, and to retain it, he must win the battle with himself by losing the war.

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