Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner asserts that Sergio Perez would have been allowed to contest victory in the Mexico Grand Prix if he had led out of the first corner

Both Red Bull drivers got away excellently from third and fifth on the grid to sandwich polesitter Charles Leclerc on the approach to Turn 1 at the very start of Sunday’s race.

While Max Verstappen held the inside line to take a lead he would convert into the win, Perez’s attempt to complete a move around the outside saw him tangle with Leclerc.

Perez’s RB19 was momentarily sent airborne, triggering an impact with the ground that caused too much damage upon inspection for him to continue in the grand prix.

Asked how Red Bull would have managed the race if the Mexican had slipped cleanly ahead of Leclerc and his team-mate, Horner said: “It would’ve been a straight fight between the two of them, yeah. It could have been an interesting afternoon.

“Look, Checo had good pace this weekend, it was just frustrating that it was a first-corner incident. That was my fear going into the race.”

Horner has downplayed the impact retiring from his home event will have on Perez, insisting that the 33-year-old will recover from his latest setback this season.

“He’s a tough operator,” Horner said. “That’s why he’s in the car, because mentally, he’s always been able to bounce back. He’ll brush himself down and he’ll turn it into motivation.

“Sprint race in Brazil, Las Vegas a street circuit, he’s always run well at street circuits. Abu Dhabi, he’s always been competitive there as well. He’ll have the full support of the team to try and achieve something that we’ve not done before [finish 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship].”

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19. 29.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race Day.

Perez’s failure to reach the chequered flag was compounded by Lewis Hamilton’s charge to second reducing the gap between them in the standings to only 20 points.

Asked if he still believes Perez can deliver for Red Bull, Horner replied: “Yes. He’s got three races now to convert that second place, there’s 20 points between him and Lewis.

“He’s had some misfortune, he’s had some issues. But we still believe he can do it between now and the end of the year.”

Having claimed last week that Perez would remain alongside Verstappen in 2024, Horner reiterates his future isn’t dependent on securing second in the championship.

“No, it’s not as binary as that,” Horner relayed when pressed on whether Perez’s place was at risk if Hamilton pipped him. “You’ve got to look at the circumstances and so on.

“Checo has an agreement with us for next year, and that’s our intention, for him to be in the car in 2024. We’ll give him all the support that we can so that he finishes second. There’s no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, you’re out.”

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