Horner rubbishes Perez retirement rumours as he praises Mexican’s ‘great relationship’ with Red Bull
There was always going to be attention aplenty directed at Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for his home race at the Mexico City Grand Prix. But with the rumour mill around Perez spinning merrily this weekend – including talk of him making a shock retirement announcement at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has moved to shut down speculation around the Mexican.
Perez has been under pressure throughout much of 2023, as his early title charge faded – team mate Max Verstappen wrapping up the championship in Qatar, with Perez a full 266 points behind the Dutchman at this stage of the season.
Asked in Mexico City on Friday whether a home win would be a good morale boost to Perez – who finished P3 in Free Practice 1 and P5 in Free Practice 2 – Horner replied: “Absolutely. He had a good race in Austin last weekend and hopefully he can bring that form into this weekend. He started well in [FP1], he’s got a lot of home support here, so let’s hope he can use that crowd energy.“
Rumours around Perez recently have included claims of friction with Verstappen, that he would be announcing his retirement this year – perhaps as early as this weekend – and that his seat for 2024 at Red Bull was unsafe – while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton made comments reported by Fox Sports on Thursday that he didn’t feel Red Bull were providing enough support for the Mexican currently.
But seeking to put the record straight – and appearing to reference other comments from Hamilton to Sky Italy that he believed he’d faced tougher team mates than Verstappen had in his career – Horner said: “First of all, there’s absolutely no plan of any retirement!
“It’s very nice that Lewis has so much care and attention [for Perez] when he was questioning the validity of Max’s team mate only a few weeks ago. But look, there’s always rumours that are circulating in this paddock, especially when there’s very little to write about.
“[Sergio] has a great relationship with the team, a strong relationship with his team mate, and we want to see him finish second in the championship, which is something we’ve never achieved before – to have a one-two.”
Meanwhile, Horner said that despite attention at Red Bull’s factory having now switched to building a car to succeed their dominant RB19 for 2024, the remaining four Grands Prix in 2023 were “like cup finals” to the team.
“Trackside, we’re absolutely focused on the four remaining events,” he said. “They’re like cup finals for us. But obviously back in the factory, a lot of the attention is on ’24, as I guess most of the teams are. But certainly every individual race has great value to us.”