In 2021, Sergio Perez will finally get his shot in a front-running team in the form of Red Bull Racing, but how will the Mexican fare against Max Verstappen?
Throughout his F1 career, Perez has been unfortunate to not find himself in a team that is fit to consistently fight at the front of the grid. But, at the end of the 2020 season, it was announced he would be joining Red Bull, giving him the best chance of his career to be a regular podium finisher.
It won’t be easy going though, as he partners one of the strongest drivers on the grid in Verstappen, who has outperformed both Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon in the past two years.
Since Daniel Ricciardo left at the end of 2018, Red Bull have struggled to find the perfect pairing to take the fight to Mercedes, and now it looks like they may have found the right match in both Perez and Verstappen.
But the big question mark on Perez’s arrival to the Milton Keynes-based team, is whether or not he can put Verstappen under pressure as Red Bull’s star driver, something the Dutchman’s previous two teammates have failed to do.
When you look at both drivers’ 2020 season, the two arguably performed the best out of anyone on the grid. Perez finished fourth in the championship despite missing two races due to Covid-19, and Verstappen finished third, with two dominant race wins to his name despite Mercedes seeming unstoppable.
The Mexican had a stellar 2020 campaign, with two podiums to his name, one being an exceptional race-win in the Sakhir Grand Prix. He was in the running for a third podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but a late engine failure put him out of the race.
Consistency was another strong point for the 30-year-old in 2020, scoring points in every race he finished, and given the intense midfield battle, this was an impressive feat.
The Mexican will join the Red Bull team with four years more experience in Formula One compared to Verstappen, and it’s this wealth of time in the sport that may allow Perez to put his Dutch teammate under a significant amount of pressure.
On the contrary, Verstappen has youth on his side, and has consistently shown that he is Red Bull’s number one driver, having committed to the team until the end of 2023.
The Dutch driver is also hungry for a championship, and will be eager to push even further in 2021 to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton, there will be no doubt that Verstappen will be determined to keep his status in Red Bull cemented.
Perez will enter the team however with a hunger for success, especially since this is his biggest chance to prove himself in a race-winning team, and will be eager to show this as soon as the 2021 campaign gets underway.
On that note however, the Mexican found himself in a similar situation in 2013 when he joined what was a race-winning team in McLaren, against a championship-calibre driver in Jenson Button.
Replacing Lewis Hamilton, who’d secured 21 wins and a drivers’ title for the Woking outfit, Perez failed to perform that year and left the team at the end of the season.
While not the disaster some people have labelled it, he had a best finish of fifth place and his tally of 49 points was just one more than the teammate he’d left at Force India; Paul di Resta.
But in 2021, Perez joins Red Bull as a much more experienced and well-rounded driver compared to when he joined McLaren, so he should be able to perform to the expectations of the team.
Red Bull are looking for consistency, and a line-up that is capable of finally pushing Mercedes, and Perez joins the team with that expectation, to back the Dutchman up on-track.
With Verstappen constantly improving year on year, it will be unlikely that Perez can consistently outperform the 23-year-old, however with the successful 2020 season that the Mexican endured, there is no doubt he will be a strong asset in the Red Bull garage.