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Hakkinen surprised by decision to extend Perez's contract

Hakkinen surprised by decision to extend Perez's contract
© Reuters
Two F1 race winners have expressed their dismay at Red Bull's decision to extend Sergio Perez's contract into 2025 and possibly further.

Two F1 race winners have expressed their dismay at Red Bull's decision to extend Sergio Perez's contract into 2025 and possibly further.

Red Bull has revealed that the deal with the Mexican racer will span two years, although team consultant Dr. Helmut Marko acknowledges that the contract contains specific "clauses."

"Perez still has to perform in the next two years," commented Yuki Tsunoda, who will also continue with Red Bull's junior team, RB, through 2025.

"Anything can happen in these kinds of circumstances," noted the Japanese driver.

Christian Horner, the head of Red Bull Racing, hinted that Perez's agreement might actually include a one-year term with an optional extension into 2026. "Well, one plus one is two," he noted with a smile. "So it's a two-year deal."

"As in any contract, there are all kinds of things in there, but of course this is an internal matter for the driver and the team," added Horner, who admits the renewal of Perez's contract comes amid a series of "terrible" races for the 34-year-old.

Mika Hakkinen found it "amazing" that Red Bull would re-sign him under such circumstances.

"It's just a fact that when you compare him with his teammate, the difference is simply too big," Hakkinen told Viaplay broadcaster.

"And now they sign a two-year extension with a driver who can't keep up with the pace at all. It's amazing."

Hakkinen's peer, fellow F1 race winner and rival Ralf Schumacher, agrees that having a 'number 2' driver to support Max Verstappen is a logical strategy, but he believes Perez has not lived up to even that secondary role.

"Red Bull needs a number 2 to cover for the number 1," he stated. "One who is a real support. But Canada was just one more in a long list of mistakes for Perez."

McLaren's Lando Norris and even Max Verstappen himself believe that Red Bull currently functions as a one-man team.

"At the end of the day," Norris observed, "I think two (drivers) is going to be better than one, in Max's case."

Verstappen also remarked, "Of course, naturally, we always want the two cars to be up there. We just need to work on our car to make it a bit easier to drive, to feel a bit more comfortable."

"Then I'm sure that we will have both cars back up there like we had in the beginning of the season."

Red Bull's advisor, Marko, sees a silver lining in that the championship leader Verstappen is benefiting from his rivals' inconsistency.

"We hope that the competition behind us will keep doing that and the second strongest force will keep changing race by race," he told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

"That will make things a little more comfortable for us in terms of the world championship."

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner pictured on March 8, 2024
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