By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Sergio Perez's future at Red Bull beyond this season rests in his own hands, team boss Christian Horner said ahead of Sunday's Formula One season-opener in Bahrain.
The experienced Mexican has joined as Dutch youngster Max Verstappen's team mate at former world champions hoping to mount a serious title challenge and end Mercedes's seven year dominance.
Perez replaces Thai youngster Alexander Albon, who has been demoted to a reserve role.
"There’s nothing pre-written that it’s only a single-year deal," Horner said of Perez's contract. "It depends how he fits in the team, how he delivers. Its very much in his own hands.
"It’s all about what they do in the car at the end of the day... it's now down to him to make good use of it," he told Reuters.
Perez won the Sakhir Grand Prix for Racing Point (now Aston Martin) in Bahrain in December -- his first victory after 190 starts making him the first Mexican to win a Formula One race for 50 years.
He had already lost his place to four times world champion Sebastian Vettel and had nowhere to go until Red Bull threw him a lifeline.
"He was staring down the barrel of being on the bench this year," said Horner.
"It was only a unique set of circumstances... that allowed us to wait until after the season to make a decision. And the back end of the year that Sergio had was so compelling that you couldn’t ignore a talent like that."
Horner has worked with the Mexican before, having signed him for his Arden Formula Two team following Red Bull's decision not to take him into their young driver programme. Perez then graduated to F1 with Sauber in 2011.
"He had a brilliant year in British F3 in an underdog team and so that’s why I took him in my Formula Two team and he had some great races there," recalled Horner.
"He was still very young, he was still very rough around the edges but his race pace and his tenacity, you could see that there was a lot of talent there."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)