The wait is over in one sense for Sergio Perez who, having made his debut in Formula 1 in 2011, has finally won a Grand Prix.
Despite being involved in a first lap collision last weekend the Mexican ensured he was in prime position to take advantage of Mercedes throwing away victory as Perez worked his way through the field. Avenging to a certain extent the podium he lost to a late engine failure during the Bahrain Grand Prix.
It also means there will no doubt be even louder calls for his Formula 1 career to be saved by Red Bull Racing as the Austrian team are still, at the time of writing, yet to confirm exactly who will partner Max Verstappen for the 2021 season.Embed from Getty Images
As has been highlighted by some Perez finds himself in a similar situation to that which faced Nico Hulkenberg in 2019 and Esteban Ocon in 2018. With only ten teams, various technical partnerships and just general economics and politics, there has always been one driver in recent seasons of Perez’s calibre to be struggling to stay on the Formula 1 grid.
Perez’s only chance is the Red Bull drive with the other seats filled and Lewis Hamilton expected to sign a new contract with Mercedes. Yet Red Bull Racing have repeatedly stated that they want to keep Albon alongside Verstappen, having invested a lot of effort in trying to help the Thai driver. Yet Albon has been inconsistent this season, highlighted by his performances in Bahrain where after a podium finish in the first race he endured a more difficult second race weekend. This at a time when Perez put in two solid performances across the two race weekends in Bahrain, showcasing his talents and achieving his maiden victory in what is felt to be the Mexican’s best season in Formula 1.
With Perez’s victory last weekend comes confirmation that he isn’t just a solid ‘midfield driver’ but if given the car he will in all likelihood be consistently at the front challenging for pole positions, podiums and wins. This is something that Red Bull appear to be desperate for since Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of the 2018 season.
It would certainly be interesting were Perez to get the Red Bull drive to see how close he would be to Verstappen in qualifying and in races across a season. I also feel it would go some way to clarifying whether Gasly and Albon genuinely weren’t ready for a Red Bull drive, or whether there was something more fundamental that hindered their time with the Austrian team.Embed from Getty Images
Perez at Red Bull would also help continue to write more chapters in Mexico’s Formula 1 history. Perez having become the second Mexican to win a race after Pedro Rodriguez, who won the 1967 South African Grand Prix and the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix. Perez’s victory is also perhaps as close to a fairytale ending he will get to with Racing Point, the team he has been with since 2014 and helped in part save in the middle of the 2018 season.
Unless Albon puts in a stellar performance of his own in Abu Dhabi, similar to Perez’s two Bahrain performances, it will feel like more a matter of when not if Perez is confirmed at Red Bull for the 2021 season. Whether this would be a good move for the Mexican is another question with the team set to lose factory Honda support at the end of next season. Nevertheless it would represent the second chance with a top team Perez has been aiming for after the false dawn at McLaren in 2013.