By signing Sergio “Checo” Perez for the 2021 season, Red Bull will be able to have a two-pronged attack in the races for the first time since Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were teammates on the squad in 2018.
While Ricciardo’s replacements Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon occasionally had a strong race, most of the time Verstappen was on his own in the fight for podiums and wins. This severely handicapped Red Bull because it could not split its race strategies. Mercedes, meanwhile, has had the luxury of being able to cover Verstappen with one of its drivers while then being able to put its other driver on a different strategy.
“I have been in the position where Max is; when I was at McLaren when I was the lead car and the second car wasn’t in the fight,” Lewis Hamilton said. “When we were fighting against Ferrari, they could play, they could move around with the strategy and make it a lot harder for us. Naturally, this makes Red Bull stronger, particularly with the way Sergio is performing.
“It’s going to be an exciting battle to watch him up against Max. That’s going to make it much harder for us as a team. We’re going to have to really step up our game, because that’s going to be a battle we haven’t seen for some time, having the two drivers there fighting against us.”
It remains to be seen how Perez stacks up against the extremely quick Verstappen, but Perez should be in the mix more often than Gasly or Albon.
“I hope that Checo will push the team forward but also to keep me on my toes, which is always nice, to have a teammate pushing you,” Verstappen said. “Checo’s a good guy, he’s good on his tires, he’s a good racer, he’s intelligent. That’s what’s going to make the difference.”
Perez has not joined Red Bull to play the wingman support role. Since making his F1 debut in the 2011 Australian Grand Prix, he competed in 189 grands prix races before finally winning. His victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix plus his competitive showings throughout the 2020 season helped to convince Red Bull to sign him.
“I definitely didn’t come to F1 to win a race only,” he said. “I arrived here with the hope of being a world champion, but very early on you realize that being a world champion is not fully down to you. You have to be in the right car, in the right year.”
Perez has driven for Sauber, McLaren, Force India and Racing Point, so from his perspective he now finally will have a car capable of winning.