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Marko: Perez improved F1 form because 2025 contract talks are at stake

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko suggests Sergio Perez’s improved form might be because “next year’s contracts are at stake” as the Mexican fights to secure his future in Formula 1.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Perez missed out on pole position for the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix to reigning world champion team-mate Max Verstappen by a slender 0.066 seconds as Red Bull scored a 1-2 result.

With Perez out of contract at the end of the year, many believed RB driver Daniel Ricciardo would take his place. However, the Australian has struggled against stablemate Yuki Tsunoda.

Combined with the availability of Carlos Sainz following Lewis Hamilton’s impending Ferrari switch, Fernando Alonso refraining from publicly committing his future to Aston Martin and the instability at the top of Red Bull impacting Verstappen, the Red Bull line-up is far from certain.

With both seats potentially available should Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff land ‘number one target’ Verstappen, Marko has suggested that Perez’s groove - having brought up the rear in Red Bull 1-2s in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – might be because contract talks are on the line.

Speaking to Sky Germany after qualifying in Suzuka, Marko said: “Last year [in Japan] in particular was Sergio's worst race. Everything went wrong then, so I think it's particularly satisfying for him.

“You can see he can do it. But perhaps it also plays a role that next year's contracts are at stake - this year much earlier than usual. That also seems to be very motivating.”

Marko added that the situation “has moved forward a lot” when it came to locking in a Red Bull driver pairing for 2025 but that more time was needed before making a final decision.

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Alonso, also out of contract at the end of the season, and Mercedes have said they want their resolutions for 2025 sorted by the summer.

“Normally we don't talk about driver decisions at all in April,” continued Marko. “But somehow, the whole thing seems to have moved forward a lot. But it's still too early for us. We will certainly wait some time before we make a decision.”

The Austrian added that Sainz is “certainly another name to consider”, should the former Toro Rosso driver be brought back within the Red Bull stable.

Marko reckoned he and Red Bull F1 team principal Christian Horner would follow “the same procedure” as previous years and the pair have held talks to determine the driver line-up.

Their working relationship is under heightened scrutiny following speculation Marko had been leaking information to the media regarding an investigation into Horner after a female employee made allegations of inappropriate behaviour against him.

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