Opinion | Perez is a masterstroke by Red Bull, but Verstappen remains the leader

25-02-2021 07:00
Opinion | Perez is a masterstroke by Red Bull, but Verstappen remains the leader

For a long time, Red Bull Racing has opted again to put a driver from outside their own Red Bull training course in the car. Sergio Perez gets the chance to make it difficult for Max Verstappen after Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly failed as a teammate. What are the expectations for 2021?

Max Verstappen

For Max Verstappen, it has not been very exciting with his teammate in the last two years. Gasly and Albon were unable to beat him in any qualifying and only finished in front of him if the Dutchman had retired. A greater contrast was hardly possible after years of excitement with Daniel Ricciardo.

Of course, Daniel was determined to leave Red Bull Racing at the end of 2018 for a reason. Verstappen gained the upper hand within that team and as a marketing machine, the young talent with his enormous supporters in the Netherlands logically also has an advantage. However, the departure of Ricciardo could not just accommodate Red Bull.

Where Verstappen was defeated by Ricciardo in points in 2016 and 2017 and it was still really tight in 2018, it was never in a duel with Albon and Gasly. Not good for Red Bull, but not for Verstappen either. Hopefully, his new teammate can ensure that the Dutchman will be challenged again in 2021.

Sergio Perez

In 2013 Perez seemed to get his chance to join a top team, but McLaren turned out to be a top team in decline. The Mexican also wasted his chance by wanting to fight too much with his teammate Jenson Button. After a year he left and the chance to ever get a seat with a top team seemed to have been missed. Until his contract was torn up by Aston Martin.

Red Bull had a driver problem and when Perez was released on the market, Red Bull was able to take a look at that situation. Perez went on to drive his strongest season ever in Formula 1. He was back on the podium with Racing Point and even managed to win a race.

Yet in 2021 it remains to be seen whether Perez can also take the step to the top. That is not for everyone. However, Perez has shown in several cars that he is fast. However, the fight with Button and also the fight with Esteban Ocon makes you wonder how the Mexican will deal with situations where he gets team orders to leave Verstappen ahead.

Forecast for 2021

It is a huge step that Red Bull Racing has taken to appoint Sergio Perez as the new driver. Finally, they leave their juniors alone. Perez is a consistent driver on Sundays, manages his tyres very well and especially the rear of his car. An ideal driver for Red Bull.

It seems obvious that Verstappen will have the upper hand at Red Bull Racing. The Dutchman has been with the team for some time, has certainly been able to completely adapt the car in recent years and has shown in terms of speed that he can really drive drivers around the ears. However, it will probably not be as easy as the past two years in 2021.

We should not expect Perez to win the weekly qualifying duel against Verstappen, because Perez lost that game in a duel with Ocon and he was also not unapproachable against Lance Stroll. Verstappen will win the battle on Saturdays, but Perez will be in front of it more often than was the case with Gasly and Albon.

However, on Sunday we find Perez's greatest strength. He performs consistently throughout a season and therefore often beats his teammate in points. If he can fulfil the same role at Red Bull on Sunday as Valtteri Bottas does at Mercedes, then Red Bull has made a strong move. Then they can really attack Mercedes with two drivers.

The only doubts surrounding Perez are of course how he will deal with a clear role as the second driver. Perez was at odds with Button and Ocon often. How will the Mexican act if Verstappen beats him? Does he fit in the role as the second driver or does it go completely wrong? 

This article was written and originally published by Tim on the Dutch edition of GPblog.com.

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