Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out
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Nico Rosberg has questioned the future of Sergio Perez at Red Bull despite the Mexican helping Max Verstappen win the drivers’ championship. Perez, 31, joined the team from Racing Point ahead of the 2021 campaign, winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and eventually finishing fourth in the standings behind Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, and Valtteri Bottas.
The duo of Verstappen and Perez were unable to prevent Mercedes taking an eighth straight constructors’ crown, but the Dutchman’s dramatic win at the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which secured his title win, owed much to his teammate.
Prior to all the late drama, Perez had found himself temporary leader after Hamilton opted to pit, and then when the British driver bore down on him he refused to budge.
Even when Hamilton did pass him Perez duly took the place back, and by the time the Mercedes man did shake him off Verstappen in third was right on the tail of the pair.
The display led to Verstappen labelling his partner a “legend” over team radio, and indeed, Perez was right amongst the wild Red Bull post-race celebrations at the Yas Marina Circuit.
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However, Perez is only contracted to Christian Horner’s team until 2023, prompting speculation he will be replaced when his current deal expires.
Now Rosberg, who prior to this season was the last driver to beat Hamilton to the title back in 2016, has added further fuel to the fire by suggesting the British-based team should instead turn to Pierre Gasly.
Frenchman Gasly partnered Verstappen at Red Bull in the early stages of the 2019 campaign, but after a difficult start, was demoted back to junior team Toro Rosso [now AlphaTauri] and replaced by Alex Albon.
Since then, however, the 25-year-old has shown real signs of promise, winning the 2020 Italian Grand Prix and this season breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time to finish ninth in the championship standings.
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And Rosberg thinks his form makes a future reunion inevitable. “Pierre is really, really awesome, to the extent where you are surprised they don’t take him back into the mother team, into Red Bull Racing”, Rosberg told Sky Sports.
“But you will never know if he’s able to perform under the pressure of Red Bull Racing. That’s the big question mark which is left, and that’s why they didn’t put him back in.
“But at AlphaTauri he’s doing a really phenomenal job.”
Albon, who was demoted back to the role of development driver when Perez joined Red Bull, meanwhile, has a new team for 2022.
He will drive at Williams, replacing fellow Briton George Russell following his move to Mercedes.
The 25-year-old Albon will race alongside Nicholas Latifi, who retained the seat he had held since 2020.
He had previously insisted he wouldn’t be giving hope of getting back in the frame to drive alongside Verstappen at Red Bull.
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