Perez enjoyed his strongest F1 season to date, winning two races on his way to third in the 2022 drivers’ standings, but he proved no match for Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, who charged to his second successive world title with 15 victories. 

Friction developed between the pair and escalated into a controversial team orders row in Brazil when Verstappen refused to give Perez sixth place to help his ultimately unsuccessful bid for second in the championship. 

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And with Ricciardo rejoining Red Bull in a third driver role as he targets a full-time return to the grid in 2024 after seeing his McLaren contract terminated a year early, Coulthard believes Perez will be looking over his shoulder. 

“Checo [Perez] will see that there is a real substitute driver there,” Coulthard is quoted as saying by BBC Sport. 

“For Checo to look at how many victories Max had and how many he had, it’s not like he is just having to polish a few corners. This is a major rewrite, a software update,” he said.

“If you use the same ingredients in the cake you will get the same cake. You need to change it if you want something different.

“He has access to the data of the world champion. He can see where he’s quicker, where he’s slower. Checo will be quicker in some areas. It’s just Max is putting it all together more often than not.

“All the knowledge is there for Checo to lift his performance. If he does then the World Championship is there for him to put his hand on.

“If he doesn’t, then he will be another driver, like myself, that won a few grands prix.”

Coulthard, who raced for Red Bull between 2005 and 2008, likened Perez’s current situation to his own career experiences when he partnered two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen at McLaren. 

"Having been in a similar situation to Sergio where I was up against Mika and Kimi [Raikkonen], you just have to leave no stone unturned," Coulthard explained. 

“You do physical training but the only way he can improve his qualifying speed is in the car or in the simulator.

"In nine years at McLaren, I did every test and never missed a race, even when I felt terrible, even when I felt like I was going to be sick after testing, because I knew the minute I let the test driver get in the car it became an opportunity to show how good he was.

"If I don't let him get in the car he can talk all day long. You have to defend your territory."