(Reuters) – Under-pressure Red Bull driver Sergio Perez shrugged off the threat of Daniel Ricciardo’s return to the Formula One grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix, saying on Thursday it changed nothing for him.
The Mexican is second in the championship but 99 points adrift of team mate and double world champion Max Verstappen after 10 of 22 races.
Eight times race winner Ricciardo has replaced Dutch rookie Nyck de Vries at Red Bull’s sister team AlphaTauri for the rest of the season and the Australian has been open about targeting Perez’s seat.
Perez’s deal expires at the end of next year, but de Vries’s abrupt departure has served as a reminder that Red Bull has a history of switching its contracted drivers around or out altogether.
“I’m happy for Daniel, he’s very motivated to be back, so well done to him,” Perez told reporters at the Hungaroring. “It’s a great opportunity for him.
“From my side it doesn’t change anything because I drive for Red Bull,” he added.
“There’s not just Daniel out there. It’s (AlphaTauri’s Japanese driver) Yuki (Tsunoda), it’s more than half of the grid would like to drive for Red Bull. So it doesn’t change anything.”
Perez won two of the season’s first four races and had challenged Verstappen for the overall lead before the Dutch driver powered away.
Verstappen has won the last six in a row, and started the last five on pole position.
Perez has failed to qualify in the top 10 in his last five races, and only once stood on the podium in the same period, but he said his future was still in his own hands.
“I’ve had a rough patch, it’s true, but I also had a great start to the season,” said the Mexican.
“It’s just balancing out, looking at those races, what worked, and looking at those bad races and what didn’t, and (we need to) just make sure that we make progress weekend after weekend.”
“I’m confident. I’ve done my work, I’ve done my preparation and I’m ready to deliver a strong weekend. That’s all I can do.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said this week that the team planned to keep an unchanged lineup in 2024.
“Our drivers are going to be Max and Checo (Perez) again next year, but it’s always good to have talent in reserve,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)