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All good seats now taken, as Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari Formula 1 driver lineups locked in through end of 2023 season.
Red Bull Racing has locked in its driver lineup for the 2023 and 2024 Formula 1 seasons.
The outfit has handed Sergio Perez a two-year contract extension on Tuesday to continue racing alongside reigning World Champion Max Verstappen. Perez had been expected to stay at Red Bull and his extension was announced less than 48 hours after he claimed victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The bigger news may be that the Perez signing locks up the driver lineups for the sport's top three teams—Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes—at least through the 2023 season.
“For me, this has been an incredible week, winning the Monaco Grand Prix is a dream for any driver and then to follow that with announcing I will continue with the team until 2024 just makes me extremely happy,” said Perez. "I am so proud to be a member of this team and I feel completely at home here now. We are working very well together and my relationship with Max, on and off the track, is definitely helping drive us forward even more. We have built tremendous momentum as a team and this season is showing that, I am excited to see where that can take us all in the future.”
Red Bull and Perez effectively stumbled into a partnership that has proved to be prosperous for both sides.
Red Bull had struggled to find a suitable replacement for Daniel Ricciardo in the immediate years after his departure at the end of 2018. Pierre Gasly was thrust into Red Bull for 2019 but was rarely in contention and axed mid-season. He has since rebuilt his reputation at AlphaTauri, emerging as a formidable battler in the midfield, but Red Bull consistently remained lukewarm over the idea of bringing Gasly back to the senior team.
Alexander Albon was promoted to Red Bull mid-2019, halfway through his rookie season, but only fared marginally better than Gasly and by the end of 2020 Red Bull made up its mind to find a new face. Albon is in the process of proving his credentials once more with Williams after spending 2021 maturely assisting Red Bull as its test driver.
Red Bull was also assisted by Perez’s status as a free agent at the end of 2020. He had been released by Racing Point—despite holding a deal that ran through 2022—after the Lawrence Stroll-owned team successfully pursued Sebastian Vettel. Perez rounded out 2020 in a rich vein of form, delivering his and Racing Point’s maiden win in Bahrain, en route to an outstanding fourth in the championship. Red Bull opted to take a punt on Perez and handed him a one-year deal.
Perez joined Gasly and Albon in struggling to match Verstappen’s one-lap pace as his teammate but was far more composed on Sundays with his race car and tire management—the latter being a long-standing trait of his driving style. He also had the maturity and experience to remain patient on weekends when his prospects floundered rather than dig himself into a negative spiral. By midseason, Red Bull had committed to Perez for another year. Perez went on to play a key role in Verstappen’s title victory through his defensive work against Lewis Hamilton, most notably at the decider in Abu Dhabi.
It is that role as a team player that has impressed Red Bull, with Verstappen last year describing Perez as a “very rare” commodity and “an amazing human being.”
Perez carried his late 2021 form into the early stages of 2022 by claiming a maiden pole position in Saudi Arabia, with his prospects of victory there wrecked by the timing of a Safety Car period. Perez followed it up with runner-up positions in Australia, Emilia Romagna and Spain before claiming victory in Monaco, the third win of his career, to hold third in the standings. He is now only 15 points behind Verstappen in the standings.
Perez is essentially an ideal foil for Verstappen: sufficiently fast, amiable, and a team player, while being extremely marketable in his home country. Put simply, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“Time and again he has proved himself to not only be a magnificent team player but as his level of comfort has grown he has become a real force to be reckoned with at the sharp end of the grid,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “This year he has taken another step and the gap to Max has closed significantly, evidenced by his superb pole position in Jeddah earlier this year and by his wonderful win in Monaco just last weekend. For us, holding onto his pace, race craft and experience was a no-brainer, and we are delighted that Checo will continue to race for the team until 2024. In partnership with Max we believe we have a driver pairing that can bring us the biggest prizes in F1.”
Confirmation of Perez’s contract extension already makes it a relatively tame silly season at the sharp end of the Formula 1 field, with the front-runners all holding long-term deals.
In the aftermath of his maiden world title, Verstappen signed a long-term contract extension that will keep him at Red Bull until at least 2028.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are signed at Ferrari through 2024, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract runs through 2023, while George Russell joined this year on a long-term deal.
McLaren has Daniel Ricciardo (2023) and Lando Norris (2025) under contract, though ruminations continue over Ricciardo's situation owing to his recent poor form.
Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen hold multi-year deals at Alfa Romeo and Haas, respectively while Lance Stroll’s seat at Aston Martin is ostensibly secure owing to his father Lawrence Stroll's ownership and control of the team.
That is likely to mean focus switches to the futures of Fernando Alonso at Alpine, Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin and Mick Schumacher at Haas.
Alpine, which has Esteban Ocon contracted through 2024, essentially has to decide between two-time champion Alonso or its highly-rated junior Oscar Piastri, who won back-to-back titles in Formula 2 and Formula 3. He is acting as Alpine’s reserve driver this year and has an extensive testing program in Alpine’s 2021-spec car to gather experience.
Vettel, meanwhile, has yet to indicate whether he wants to continue after 2022, while Schumacher is under pressure following a couple of enormous accidents and his pace compared to Magnussen.
Perez’s continuation through 2024 also places focus on AlphaTauri’s lineup; the squad has historically trained young drivers for Red Bull, but there will now be no opening at the senior outfit until at least 2025. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda currently occupy those seats.
Sole F1 rookie Zhou Guanyu is only contracted for 2022 at Alfa Romeo, while Williams’ lineup of Albon and Nicholas Latifi is also locked in just for this year.