Autosport (UK)

Perez struggles again but possible new contract still looms

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Sergio Perez was left to reflect that eighth in the Imola race “was the best we could get” after his qualifying underperfo­rmance left him starting 11th. It capped a poor weekend overall for the Mexican, despite suggestion­s in the paddock that Red Bull is leaning towards retaining him for 2025.

Perez went through the same Friday practice struggles as Max Verstappen, with Red Bull’s initial set-up needing considerab­le overnight simulator fettling from Toyota World Endurance driver and Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi, along with Formula E world champion Jake Dennis. But Perez’s weekend got worse when he crashed at the Variante Alta chicane late in FP3.

After missing the Q3 cut, when he was caught out by a lack of rear grip on his final Q2 flier, Perez started the race on the hard tyres for the contra strategy. This heaped a lot on the possibilit­y of a mid or late-race safety car transformi­ng his fortunes, but this never came.

Instead, Perez, who jumped Daniel Ricciardo’s slow-starting RB off the line, felt he was “compromise­d a lot with the traffic initially, traffic at the end, people coming through” after they had stopped on the medium tyres up ahead. The fact that those ahead, from leader Verstappen to Lewis Hamilton in seventh, had rapidly gained a pitstop on Perez showed he was unlikely to recover to the higher places without an interventi­on. He also lost five seconds locking up and going off on lap 17.

Once he had stopped for medium tyres on lap 37, Perez rose back ahead of Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg and Yuki Tsunoda and came home eighth. Mercedes had so much margin over him that George Russell was able to make his unexpected second pitstop and stay ahead.

“I think it’s just a blip,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. “He’s always gone well at Monaco so we’ll see…”

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