Christian Horner has told Sergio Perez to maintain his current level of performance if he is to earn a new F1 contract with Red Bull.
After being dropped by Racing Point last season to make way for Sebastian Vettel's arrival at a team now known as Aston Martin, Perez was eventually picked up by Red Bull but only on a one-year deal.
Following a period of adjustment, Perez now appears to be at home, delighting the team with his maiden victory in only his sixth race by picking up the pieces following Max Verstappen's crash five laps from the end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The result appeared to be validation of Perez's comment that he only required five races to get up to speed.
"We knew he was good around here [the Baku City Circuit] but we didn't know he was that good," said Horner.
"He was quick all weekend, bang on the pace. The only lap where he made a mistake was Q3 run one, and his race pace was phenomenal.
"Had he not been long at the first stop then he would have been right on top of Max for the overcut at that point such was his pace in clean air.
"So phenomenal for him and the way he was defending from Lewis [Hamilton], controlling that, was a class act. To see him get that victory will be great for his confidence.
"It puts him to third in the drivers' championship now, so he's ahead of expectation."
Red Bull's second driver puzzle solved?
After struggling to find a team-mate for Verstappen to match the Dutch driver's pace after Daniel Ricciardo left the team, dispensing with the services of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, Red Bull finally appears to have solved an ongoing issue.
Assessing whether the team's position was now more relaxed given Perez's form, Horner added: "It's great to have both cars up there obviously.
"It's an added string to our bow on a day you lose the lead car that Checo is right there to deliver the win, and that's exactly what we've been looking for.
"So I'm delighted for him, pleased for the team with the amount of effort that's been going on behind the scenes, and for all our partners as well that are working incredibly hard.
"It's everybody doing their bit and Checo being part of that."
As to whether it was a no-brainer the team would re-sign him for next season, Horner replied: "I'm really happy with the job Checo is doing.
"We're only on race six out of 23, so we've plenty of time. He's enjoying being in the team, he's doing a great job, and he just needs to keep doing what he's doing."
What do you think?
They need him in the '22' car to help with development. This year he is where he should be, hopefully helping to win championships
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