Dr Helmut Marko has denied that Red Bull is “trying to put pressure” on Sergio Perez.
Towards the end of the season, it became clear that the relationship – or the appearance of a relationship – between Max Verstappen and Perez was breaking down.
Fairly promptly after that, it emerged that McLaren refugee Daniel Ricciardo was reuniting with Red Bull for 2023 in a third driver role – with some wondering if Mexican Perez was now on notice despite his two-year contract extension.
Verstappen then suggested Perez was struggling to adjust to his de-facto number 2 role.
“I’m not going to name names, but you have to accept your role,” the Dutchman said.
However, top team official Marko said Australian Ricciardo has mainly been brought on board in a marketing role.
“We must not forget that we are a very, very big team,” said the Austrian. “We have more sponsors than any other team and that comes with a lot of obligations.
“We also want to increase our market share in America and who better to do that than Ricciardo. He has a big smile and his ‘shoey’ is known everywhere.
“He also has a lot of experience and can take the car to a higher level,” Marko added. “We are absolutely not trying to put pressure on Sergio.”
Indeed, it does appear that Marko, 79, is good enough to keep serving as back-to-back world champion Verstappen’s teammate.
“I think Sergio has shown that he can drive at a very high level,” he said. “If Max doesn’t have a good race, Perez is there.
“When Max can push the limit and has the confidence, it’s different than when anyone else pushes the limit,” Marko insisted.
“Our car is where Perez is. And Perez is a very good Formula 1 driver. But he’s not a Verstappen.”