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Red Bull boss addresses Lawson’s F1 test as pressure builds on Perez

Alex Powell,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Jul 2024, 11:35am

Red Bull boss addresses Lawson’s F1 test as pressure builds on Perez

Alex Powell,
Publish Date
Tue, 9 Jul 2024, 11:35am

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has downplayed Liam Lawson’s upcoming Formula One test at Silverstone, despite pressure mounting on Sergio Perez. 

Lawson, 22, will take part in a Red Bull promotional opportunity this week that will see him drive the current RB20 for 200km – roughly 34 laps – of the Silverstone circuit. 

While the drive itself is strictly for promotional purposes, Red Bull utilised a similar test last year to make the decision to instil Daniel Ricciardo in the then-AlphaTauri car at the expense of Nyck de Vries. 

And despite it being widely stipulated that Lawson was competing with Ricciardo for a place with Red Bull’s sister team Racing Bulls for 2025 – and possibly sooner – the dial has flipped to place pressure on Perez, teammate of world champion Max Verstappen. 

Speaking after Monday’s (NZ time) British Grand Prix, though, Horner made a point of easing any expectation that Lawson’s test will result in a similar switch this time around. 

“I’m actually doing a lap at Silverstone in the RB8 on Thursday as well, so you never know,” Horner joked. 

Christian Horner, Sergio Perez and Liam Lawson at the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo / Getty ImagesChristian Horner, Sergio Perez and Liam Lawson at the Canadian Grand Prix. Photo / Getty Images 

“In all seriousness, the Liam test is an aero run that has been planned for a couple of months now, but of course, Checo [Perez] is under pressure, that’s normal in Formula One. 

“Every driver is different, some drivers need an arm around the shoulder, some need a kick up the arse, it varies from week to week. 

“When you’re under-delivering that pressure only mounts and he’s aware of that, he knows that and this weekend, nothing has really gone his way.” 

Perez, 34, has quickly become the elephant in the room at Red Bull this season. 

Of the 373 constructors championship points the team have accrued in the first 12 races of the season, only 118 of them have been won by Perez, with four podiums and no wins. 

Teammate Verstappen has 255 points, including seven wins, in the same car as Perez. The 137 point gap between the two is the largest disparity between any teammates on the Formula One grid this season. 

Earlier this season, Perez put pen to paper on a new contract with Red Bull, that sees him signed on through the 2025 season, with an option for 2026 should the team activate it. 

Since re-signing, though, Perez’s form has fallen dramatically. After starting the year with four podium finishes in five races, the Mexican has not achieved better than seventh since. 

At Silverstone, he qualified 19th to finish 17th, and secured no points for Red Bull, who’s lead at the top of the constructors’ championship has been cut to 71 points from the chasing Ferrari. 

However, most significantly, that new deal is understood to contain a clause that means Red Bull can terminate Perez’s contract if he is to trail Verstappen by more than 100 points at Formula One’s mid-season break. 

Following Silverstone, there are just two races – Hungary and Belgium – to go before the break. 

Formula One’s points scoring system sees 25 points for first, 18 for second, 15 for third, all the way down to one point for 10th. 

Should the stipulations of Perez’s contract be correct, he would need to hope for at least one victory over the next two races, while hoping Verstappen does not score. 

Should Perez be sacked, Red Bull would almost certainly instigate a reshuffle in the lineup across their two teams, which would mean promotion for one of the current Racing Bulls drivers. 

Daniel Ricciardo and Liam Lawson are vying for the same F1 seat. Photo / Getty ImagesDaniel Ricciardo and Liam Lawson are vying for the same F1 seat. Photo / Getty Images 

Ricciardo looms as the likeliest option of the two, given he won seven races for the team before leaving to join Renault – now Alpine – in 2019. 

Conversely, teammate Yuki Tsunoda has produced better results than Ricciardo this year, and leads the Australian by nine points in the driver’s championship. 

In either instance, Lawson would be promoted to Racing Bulls as a move upwards from his current role as Red Bull’s reserve driver. 

Red Bull’s head of youth development has twice made comments over the past fortnight stating the team must prioritise youth, and give Lawson an opportunity. 

The Pukekohe native is highly admired on the Formula One grid, after a five–race stint last year deputising for Ricciardo. 

In 2023, Lawson re-signed with Red Bull, including a clause that means he can leave should he not be guaranteed a seat for 2025. 

Last month, it was reported Audi, who will soon take over the current Sauber team, were interested in Lawson, provided they miss out on signing Carlos Sainz from Ferrari. 

However, Lawson’s management has told the Herald he is committed to staying at Red Bull, who have backed him since he was 17. 

Likewise, Red Bull are understood to be hesitant to lose Lawson, and therefore spurn the millions they have invested in his development. 

Red Bull have backed the Kiwi through junior categories Formula Three, Formula Two and the Japanese Super Formula championship. 

Lawson’s management also told the Herald they were unaware of Red Bull’s intentions for the Kiwi but expected to learn by the mid-season break. 

Alex Powell is an Online Sports Editor for the NZ Herald. He has been a sports journalist since 2016, and previously worked for both Newshub and 1News. 

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