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Perez's goal is to make it work at Red Bull – but there are plenty of seats available on the grid for 2025

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 15: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing looks on in the

Red Bull’s two drivers are in different spots heading into this season. World champion Max Verstappen is riding the crest of a wave after dominating last season, with a chunky five years left on his current contract. Sergio Perez is coming of his best season in F1 but knows this is the final year of his deal – which makes his performance even more important that usual.

Perez cut a really relaxed figure as Red Bull launched their 2024 campaign with a cool event in a warehouse on their Milton Keynes campus, as they celebrated what will be their 20th season in F1.

FIRST LOOK: Red Bull unveil their new RB20 car ahead of the 2024 season

At times last year, Perez looked strained and he didn’t hide his frustrations at struggling to get to grips with a RB19 that seemed to suit him less as the season went. So, when the winter came, Perez understandably couldn’t wait to head back to Mexico and immerse himself in family life – a world away from Formula 1.

To be fair to Perez, even with all those struggles – with qualifying proving to be a particular issue that left him with far too much to do on a Sunday afternoon, even with the best car on the grid – the Mexican still finished second. That was his best-ever season in F1 and helped Red Bull to their first-ever one-two finish in the standings.

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Sergio Perez was on hand as Red Bull launched their RB20 ahead of the 2024 season

But he knew he was well below the high bar he sets himself and thus headed into the winter with an eye on contemplation and, once recharged, he set about trying to understand why he struggled and how best he can set himself up to get the best out of the RB20.

“I’ve been trying to get the best overall understanding of the directions the team have taken with this car and where we have been with the car – that is something we have worked really hard to understand, which direction we have been pushing,” he told me.

GALLERY: Check out every angle of Red Bull's new F1 car, the RB20

“We started the year really strong but we didn’t really improve all year. It is something to keep aware of – to make the right steps in the right direction. There were times [last year] where I was lacking confidence.

“It’s important to develop that through the season, chipping away each weekend.”

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'Fresh' feeling Perez hopes to give his 'best season' in 2024

Perez's main priority

If Perez can find that right direction with his feel for the car and the set-up each weekend on a consistent basis then the Mexican – who enters his 14th campaign in F1 this year – believes “everything will turn out nicely” regarding his future.

Many teams have already started talks with their drivers. Alpine have spoken to both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, who are both out of contract at the end of the year. Aston Martin are in constant dialogue with Fernando Alonso. So, has Perez already started having conversations?

EXCLUSIVE: Red Bull’s Pierre Wache on the team’s 2024 – ‘We didn't do an amazing job last year’

“No, not yet,” he said. “It’s important for myself to see where we start, how we are doing, how we are developing. I want to see that develop through the season. From my point of view, that’s the main priority this year.”

You can read a few things into that last answer. Firstly, Perez doesn’t seem too worried about his future. Secondly, it feels like it’s as important to him to know if he can see a way forward with Red Bull or if his driving style is inherently different to the type of car the team will produce. Thirdly, he needs to assess if his life lies away from the team, either at a rival or outside of the sport altogether.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing poses for a

Sergio Perez played his part in Red Bull's incredible 2023 season

If Perez can stay relaxed, get the best out of himself and get answers to some key questions floating around in his head, this could be the best year yet for Perez. It’s going to be a stretch for him to realise his goal of winning the world championship this year, in large part because of just how good Verstappen is right now. But even if he proves to be a strong step forward, that’ll be an impressive response.

Perez will know there are loads of seats available on the grid for 2025. Mercedes, Alpine, Aston Martin, Williams, RB and Haas have spaces. And a return to Sauber – which will become Audi in 2026 – could be something he’d fancy, given he enjoyed so much success and felt so comfortable at the team when he drove for them in 2011 and 2012.

But his goal will be to make it work with Red Bull, not least because it’s the best chance for him to win Grands Prix and feature at the sharp end of the grid – something, which he firmly believes he has the talent to deliver.

READ MORE: Steiner gives his take on 2024 pecking order as he predicts Red Bull dominance will end

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