SPIELBERG, Austria — Sergio Perez’s horrible qualifying performance at the Austrian Grand Prix earned him a public rebuke from Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who shut down talk of replacing the Mexican driver.
Perez easily had the pace to make the Q3 session but on three occasions had a lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at the end of the track, which is owned by Red Bull, despite repeated warnings from his team.
It marked the fourth straight race he has failed to make the final qualifying session. Horner said Perez had simply not listened to the team’s warnings about track limits.
“He’s got the pace today,” Horner told Sky Sports after qualifying. “He’s got a car that was easily capable to be on the first or second row. He was matching Max’s times … [just] stay in the white lines!
“Strike one, strike two, ‘Checo just stay in the white lines,’ strike three and that was it. So I mean, hugely frustrating as he could have been there, he could have done it. So that’s the frustration. Fantastic to have got the pole but feels not complete.”
Although Perez’s continued struggles, and the presence of eight-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo as Red Bull’s third driver has led to suggestions the team could make a change, Horner categorically denied that prospect.
“Checo… everybody’s fully behind [him]. Anybody talking about replacing Checo is wide of the mark,” he said.
ESPN understands Perez’s position is still very safe, with Ricciardo’s most logical route back to the grid being with Red Bull’s junior team, AlphaTauri.
Earlier this month ESPN reported Ricciardo’s “fairytale” move would be back to Red Bull.
Perez’s Red Bull contract runs until the end of 2024.
Teammate Max Verstappen, who leads Perez by 69 points in the championship, went on to claim pole position on Friday but his teammate will start Sunday’s race from 15th.
Verstappen also had times deleted during the session but Horner said the two-time world champion drove within himself to set a time good enough to make it.
“At least he responded,” Horner said, when told Verstappen also had times deleted. “We said stay in the white lines and he did that, he built a conservatism into his laps to make sure he had a wheel inside the line. I think it was a little bit more time in the car in that last sector if he hadn’t have gone for it. So he was driving with a bit of restraint.”
Adding to the frustration was that Horner felt a strong qualifying performance could have gotten positive momentum going for Perez at a crucial time.
“The most pressure he’s under is the pressure he puts on himself,” Horner said. “Today he had the pace. Practice one he was right there. The lap times he was doing he was tenth for tenth with Max today. He can do it. It’s a great shame as I think this would have really kick-started things for him.
“And of course the frustration for us as a team is we have two Ferraris who are a little closer versus one Red Bull, with Checo out of position.”
Perez will have a chance to make amends on Saturday, which is solely dedicated to the sprint race.