Red Bull hint Max Verstappen could have new team-mate in Lewis Hamilton battle

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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has suggested that Max Verstappen could have a new team-mate for his fascinating battle with Lewis Hamilton in 2022. But the driver chief admitted that no call would be made until F1’s summer break.

Sergio Perez was installed as Verstappen’s team-mate for the 2021 campaign and the Mexican most recently delivered a solid p4 at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Perez, nicknamed ‘Checo’, has helped Red Bull take a narrow lead over Mercedes in the F1 Constructors Standings as the title battle between Verstappen and Hamilton intensifies.

But while Perez has proven himself as a race-day specialist, there are concerns over his form in qualifying and whether he is the ideal partner for Verstappen.

“Let’s start with the positive, that’s his performance in the race,” ” Marko told Formel1.de.

“They are very good, sometimes he is at the level of Max [Verstappen].

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“He proved that in Monte Carlo when we opted for the overcut. There were then three or four laps in which he drove the fastest laps of everyone on very old tyres. So the race pace is there.”

Perez’s long-term future remains a doubt as Red Bull continue their search for the perfect driver after giving opportunities to Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon. 

 The 31-year-old, who sealed his maiden F1 race victory with Racing Point at the Sakhir Grand Prix last December, still has to prove his worth in the team.

But Marko confirmed that a decision won’t be made on Red Bull’s 2022 driver just yet.

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“We don’t think about that until the summer at the earliest,” he added.

“In the driver market we are a very sought-after partner. 

“We are now fully focused on the World Championship and we see no problem as to who will be Max’s team-mate next year. It’s definitely going to be a competitive driver, but we’ve got time.”

Gasly was demoted to AlphaTauri in 2019 but has since shown Red Bull what they have missed, sealing his own race win in the Italian Grand Prix last September.

The Frenchman shares a difficult relationship with Red Bull after losing his seat, but remains in their program and very much in their future plans.

“If I’m right, Gasly’s contract will continue for another two years,” said Marko.

“It’s a contract that allows us to place him with both Red Bull and AlphaTauri. 

“However, the same applies here – we are not yet thinking about our drivers for 2022. That’s what we do during the summer break and then we make our decisions.”

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