Sergio Perez’s performances at Red Bull are coming under renewed criticism following his recent poor run in Formula 1, but how do his problems compare to previous team-mate Max Verstappen?

After losing less than a tenth of a second to Verstappen in qualifying at the true drivers’ circuit of Suzuka, Perez’s recent deficit to his team-mate is becoming a cause for concern for Red Bull as rival teams increasingly challenge them.

Perez joined the team in 2021 with the aim of finally finding a new, solid wingman for Verstappen who would rack up podiums – and even wins on a good day – while helping the team win the Constructors’ World Championship as well as the Drivers’ titles.

In signing the 10-year Mexican F1 veteran, Red Bull has opted for reliable experience over the uncertain prospects of young drivers such as Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, who were both thrown into the deep end but struggled to stay afloat early in their F1 careers.

Initially, Perez’s decision seemed to make sense, but while Verstappen managed to get to grips with the Red Bull machinery, Perez found it harder to get the most out of their underpowered cars and often struggled to find the right balance in practice, which put him in the background for the rest of the weekend.

The 2024 season looked set to be different, and Perez did exactly what Red Bull expected, picking up three second-place finishes behind Verstappen early in the season to earn him a contract extension until 2026. However, since Miami, Perez’s previous mid-season slump has returned and he has failed to make the podium since.

Perez has had a difficult series of results in recent races and was beaten by Hulkenberg in Austria, finishing sixth

Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix was another low point for Perez, who qualified eighth and finished seventh between the two Haas cars. Inevitably, Perez has come under a lot of criticism for his performances, so how do they compare to their predecessors as Verstappen’s team-mates?

Average qualifying gap between Verstappen and his teammates

Teammate

Average qualification gap

Daniel Ricciardo, 2016

0.049 faster than VER

Daniel Ricciardo, 2017

0.065 slower than VER

Daniel Ricciardo, 2018

0.107 slower than VER

Pierre Gasly, 2019

0.592 slower than VER

Alexander Albon, 2019

0.634 slower than VER

Alexander Albon, 2020

0.621 slower than VER

Sergio Perez, 2021

0.564 slower than VER

Sergio Perez, 2022

0.392 slower than VER

Sergio Perez, 2023

0.548 slower than VER

Sergio Perez, 2024

0.629 slower than VER

Looking at Perez’s three-and-a-half seasons with the Milton Keynes-based team, the Mexican was closest to Verstappen in 2022, the first season with the current ground-effect system.

One explanation is that Red Bull’s RB18 was significantly overloaded at the start of 2022, making it difficult to maintain balance. Verstappen was particularly unhappy with the understeer that the RB18 already had as standard, which was gradually being eliminated. As the weight decreased, Perez’s deficit grew.

Perez’s best season compared to Verstappen was 2022, but his form has also dipped this season as the car has lost weight and become more in line with his team-mate’s expectations

Photo: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Overall, the averages for each of the direct qualifying results show that Perez hasn’t necessarily gotten much worse. He’s always been a bit behind Verstappen’s lap times.

But with the field now much closer, both he and Red Bull are starting to pay a bigger price on the scoresheet. But 2024 is proving to be his toughest season yet, with most of the damage done in recent weeks.

The next question is how Perez compares to Verstappen’s previous Red Bull teammates, notably Gasly and Albon, who were both dropped for failing to deliver. Only Daniel Ricciardo has been able to keep Verstappen honest, and since Ricciardo’s departure the team has never found a similar replacement for the Australian.

Teammate

Average difference in qualifications between teammates

Daniel Ricciardo

0.047 slower than VER

Pierre Gasly

0.592 slower than VER

Alexander Albon

0.625 slower than VER

Sergio Perez

0.520 slower than VER

On the one hand, Ricciardo had found in Red Bull the type of car that suited his driving style and which he had been chasing unsuccessfully elsewhere ever since. But Verstappen was still early in his racing career and, while his speed had always been there, he had yet to become the consistent, unstoppable force he is today.

Albon became the latest Red Bull driver to be dropped from the squad after the 2020 season, but his average gap to Verstappen in his first full year with the team was smaller than Perez’s in 2024

Photo: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Gasly and Albon were both around six tenths of a second slower per lap, and Perez, who had initially been a tad closer, was now closing in on him as well.

It shows that being Verstappen’s teammate is not easy and that the Dutchman has a unique ability to work around Red Bull’s weaknesses, which resulted in good results even on the bumpier tracks that are the RB20’s Achilles heel.

But it also shows that while McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari regularly outperform Perez in qualifying, Red Bull are back to square one in their search for a reliable number two.

Perez, however, managed to keep his place at the start of the year despite Ricciardo’s inconsistent performances in the RB role and team boss Christian Horner’s reluctance to consider appointing Yuki Tsunoda.

But the decision to go safe with Perez rather than bring in someone like Carlos Sainz is starting to hurt.

Red Bull still has a big lead in the constructors’ championship over his rivals, who are all taking points from each other, but the 34-year-old will soon be faced with the urgent need to get out of the hole.