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Horner downplays pressure on Perez ahead of Sao Paulo GP on TSN

Sergio Perez Sergio Perez - The Canadian Press

After crashing out of the Mexican Grand Prix on Lap 1, Sergio Perez's grip on second place in the Formula One Drivers’ Standings has slipped to just 20 points.

Perez and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen traded wins in the first four weeks of the season, but Perez has finished on the podium just five times in 15 races since. He's earned 21 points over the past five Grand Prix weekends, while the charging Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes has picked up 56.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner downplayed the notion that Perez's spot with the team for next season is dependent on the Mexican driver holding on to second place over the final three races. 

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"No, it's not as binary as that," Horner said.  "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.

"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."

A seventh-place finish for AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo in Mexico has raised questions as to whether the Australian could be promoted back up to the No. 2 car at Red Bull. Ricciardo was named as an in-season replacement for Nyck de Vries, with the Mexican Grand Prix result marking his first points in four races this season as he also missed time with a broken hand. 

While Red Bull have already locked up the Constructors' Championship and first place in the Drivers' Standings thanks to Verstappen, Horner said the team remains motivated for the final stretch of the season.

“There are two goals remaining this season,” Horner added. “One is to keep winning and two is to secure that second place [in the Drivers' Standings] and it's something as a team we've never done. We never achieved it with Sebastian [Vettel] and Mark [Webber].

“We came close last year with Max and [Perez] and Checo is in a strong position. So, it will be a great achievement in a season... with the level of dominance that we've had, with an incredible car.

“[Sergio's] been working hard with his engineers. He's been working hard behind the scenes, I think, to make sure that he's on the front foot coming into these remaining races.”