Christian Horner has left the door ajar for Daniel Ricciardo to replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull next season following the Mexican’s retirement at his home grand prix.
Perez’s race lasted just 14 seconds after he crashed into Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the opening bend.
The 33-year-old had to watch Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen romp to a record 16th win of the season, while Ricciardo – who has already stated his desire to return to Red Bull – out-performed his modest AlphaTauri machinery to finish seventh after qualifying fourth.
Although Horner said it is Red Bull’s “intention” to honour Perez’s contract for 2024, he refused to confirm that the Mexican would remain with the world champions beyond this term.
Perhaps tellingly, he was also effusive in his praise for Ricciardo, lauding the Australian’s display in just his fourth comeback race as “remarkable”. It is possible that the two drivers could trade seats in 2024.
“Sergio has an agreement with us for next year and our intention is for him to be in the car in 2024,” said Horner.
“We will give him all the support he needs to ensure he finishes second in the championship.
“It was great to see Daniel perform so well and it endorses our decision to bring him back. I thought he was outstanding this weekend and if it was not for the red flag, he would have finished further up the order.
“It was a remarkable performance and he is back to his old self. He is relaxed and confident.”
Perez went for glory at the opening corner – perhaps sensing this could be his final opportunity to win on home soil – but he misjudged the move and collided with Leclerc.
Lewis Hamilton took second to reduce the deficit to Perez to just 20 points in the race for runner-up in the championship.
“There is no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, he is out of the team,” added Horner. “It is not as binary as that. You have to look at the circumstances.
“It was a tough moment for him in front of his home crowd and he was very emotional, but he wouldn’t be a racing driver if he didn’t go for the lead at his home race. It is a big loss for him in a car that was capable of being on the podium.
“He is a tough operator and that is why he is in the car, because mentally he has always been able to bounce back. He will brush himself down and turn it into motivation. He has the full support of the team.”
Ricciardo won seven times for Red Bull before taking the surprise decision to move to Renault in 2019. He subsequently joined McLaren, but endured two poor years.
Ricciardo’s career looked to be over when he was dumped by the British team at the end of last season. But the 34-year-old has performed admirably – despite being absent for five races with a broken wrist – since being handed a second chance with Red Bull’s junior team. Indeed, his seventh place in Mexico was AlphaTauri’s best result of the year.
Ricciardo will be back in action at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix – the first of three concluding rounds this season.
Published: by Radio NewsHub