Why Michael Schumacher anecdote will stress Sergio Perez in Red Bull power struggle

Sergio Perez is gearing up for his fourth season as a Red Bull driver with his long-term F1 future on the line.

Michael Schumacher, Johnny Herbert, Grand Prix Of Germany

Michael Schumacher’s former team-mate Johnny Herbert has suggested that despite assurances that both drivers are being treated equally, Max Verstappen will be benefitting from ‘favouritism’ from within the Red Bull camp relative to Sergio Perez.

Perez is preparing for a make-or-break season in 2024. After an initially promising start to his career with the Milton Keynes-based team, 2023 was a damaging year for his reputation. The Mexican won two of the first four races before Verstappen embarked on a ten-race winning streak that put the World Championship battle to rest before the summer break.

When the curtain dropped in Abu Dhabi, Perez sat a demoralising 290 points behind his team-mate – who sealed his third successive Drivers’ Championship triumph by winning all but three of the 22 Grands Prix on offer – in the standings.

With his contract set to expire at the end of the upcoming season and competition for places on the grid stiffer than ever, Perez will be feeling the pressure in 2024, particularly if performances fail to improve during the early rounds. His future on the grid is at stake and, according to Herbert, Red Bull may not be doing everything in their power to help him.

Speaking to Mega Dice about the 34-year-old’s predicament, Herbert explained: “In all my negotiations with Benetton, Flavio Briatore told me that Michael Schumacher and I were a team, that we worked together and everyone had access to the same information. It never worked that way because there tends to be favouritism towards the guy that does deliver.

When that is there, you feel it and when you feel it that is a hard thing to be able to bat away. As much as Sergio says he ignores it, it does affect you. Sergio has got to put himself into a cocoon and deliver every single time with the battering that comes from the media and from within the team on occasion.

If Red Bull do decide to make a change, they have viable options waiting in the wings, even if their prime external target – Lando Norris – committed to a new multi-year contract with McLaren in January.

Both Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda make compelling cases that they could replace Perez as Verstappen’s team-mate and with the recently rebranded VCARB team expected to take another step forward in performance terms for 2024, they will offer more unwelcome pressure for the Mexican.

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