Does Gasly pose a threat to Perez's contract extension in 2022?

19-01-2022 18:25
by GPblog.com
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Does Gasly pose a threat to Perez's contract extension in 2022?

Sergio Perez has had a mixed season at Red Bull Racing. In the end, the Mexican proved crucial in Max Verstappen's title victory, but there were also mediocre results. What must Perez do to keep his seat at the top team after 2022?

First Season at Red Bull

Perez is a driver with a lot of experience. The 31-year-old has been driving in Formula 1 since 2011, most of which was with Force India/Racing Point (now Aston Martin). Especially in the closing stages of 2021 Perez delivered good performances, think of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where he managed to hold off Lewis Hamilton, which was crucial for Verstappen. Yet there were several race weekends where Perez could have performed better.

In total, he finished outside the top four in nine races, a position he should easily be able to achieve in one of the best cars on the grid. Verstappen also left him far behind. The Dutchman won the qualifying duel by a difference of 21-1, and in the races Verstappen finished ahead of Perez sixteen times in the weekends in which both men crossed the finish line. The Mexican did manage to finish fourth in the drivers' championship, and it seems that in his first season for Red Bull he performed better compared to Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon. His contract runs until the end of 2022, so the question now is whether Red Bull will extend his contract.

Strong performance by Gasly

Gasly only got a chance at Red Bull for a short time before he was replaced by Albon midway through the season. The Frenchman did not perform to expectations and seemed unable to handle the pressure as the second driver alongside Verstappen. Back at AlphaTauri for two seasons now, however, Gasly seems to be in place. In 2020 he won the race at Monza and also in 2021 he achieved strong results, sometimes even better than Perez. Gasly himself has already indicated that he would like to return to the top team, but whether Red Bull will dare to use him again is unclear.

One thing is certain: Perez will have to pull out all the stops to prove himself alongside Verstappen in 2022. With the new regulations, the field could be closer together, so scoring maximum points will only become more important. Last season's results will not be enough for the team to win the championship again. If Red Bull develops another strong car, Perez will need to finish at least consistently in the top five, something he did well in the closing stages of 2021. He finished in the top four five times in a row, including three times on the podium. If he can continue this, Perez seems to have a good chance of a contract extension. The Mexican himself indicated that he is feeling better and better within the team and that he is getting used to his car.

However, if Gasly can continue his strong performance, he could become dangerous for Perez. Red Bull has no other drivers ready to replace the Mexican, so Gasly seems the most realistic option. Nevertheless, the Frenchman will also have to show himself from his best side, as his half season at Red Bull did not leave the best impression. He has more experience now, but it remains a risk to put him in that seat again. Who knows, maybe the pressure as Verstappen's teammate is too much for him, so he performs better in a different environment.

Alternatives for Perez

Should Red Bull choose not to renew Perez's contract, the Mexican does still have a number of options within Formula 1. There are only ten drivers on the grid who have a multi-year deal through 2023. Ferrari doesn't seem to be a real option for Perez, as Charles Leclerc already has a deal until 2025, and rumors have been circulating for some time that Carlos Sainz' contract will also be extended further beyond 2022.

At both Haas and Williams, the options after 2022 are completely open. Perez still has a few years left in Formula 1, so he may want to challenge at a team at the back of the grid, but who knows what the order of the grid will look like after the new regulations. Also at Alpine and Aston Martin, a seat may become vacant after 2022, namely those of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. However, the gentlemen seem to be in place with the teams. Then of course there is AlphaTauri, but that Red Bull would switch Gasly and Perez seems less likely anyway. The Mexican has never been part of the Red Bull Driver Academy. Most likely, the team wants to save the seat at AlphaTauri for a Red Bull Junior, and not a 31-year-old driver with more than a decade of experience.

More consistency

If Perez is able to continue his strong stint of the closing stages in 2021, I rate the chances of him keeping his seat beyond 2022 high. Red Bull needs a driver who has experience and can handle the pressure, and in 2021 Perez proved to be the perfect teammate and second driver. If he can perform more consistently throughout the season and rack up some more points, the team will be happy to keep him alongside Verstappen. After the successful year in 2021, Red Bull will want to have certainty for the future. In a previous article, we looked at Perez's career, and it showed that he almost always performs better in his second season. So perhaps after several years at AlphaTauri, Gasly should start looking at his options outside the Red Bull family.

This article was originally published on the Dutch edition of GPblog and was written by Femke 

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