It was finally confirmed at the end of last week that Sergio Perez would partner Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing for the 2021 Formula 1 season.
It therefore means that Red Bull will have its most competitive line-up since the 2018 season when the Austrian team fielded Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. It also doesn’t just mean that Perez extends his stay in the sport, but gets a second chance in a ‘top team’ after his disappointing one season spell at McLaren in 2013.
Since that 2013 season Perez has forged a reputation as being a reliable driver who is good at handling the fragile Pirelli tyres. All of which has led to the perception by some that Perez is a solid midfield driver but not necessarily at the same level as the likes of Lewis Hamilton or Verstappen. Yet 2021 is an opportunity for the Mexican to change that perception.
That is assuming that the 2021 Red Bull car is as competitive as, if not better than, the cars that the Austrian team have produced in recent seasons. If it is, then Perez will have a great opportunity to boost his reputation further, aided by having Verstappen alongside him. It will also give the Mexican an opportunity to claim more podiums and victories.
To extend on this point, it will be interesting to see how well Perez gets to grips with the 2021 car, assuming it has similar characteristics to the 2019 and 2020 Red Bull cars. This with the thought that both Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon struggled with what was at times deemed to be a ‘twitchy’ car. Should Perez have similar struggles then it will be interesting to see how people view Perez and whether there will be any re-evaluation of Gasly or Albon’s stint with the Austrian team.Embed from Getty Images
With Red Bull likely having its most competitive line-up since 2018 it will also be interesting to see how Verstappen and Perez get on, both in terms of out of the car and on track. It may be felt that the relationship between Verstappen and Perez won’t be a problem, yet Red Bull have shown at times in its history that it isn’t too great at handling two highly competitive drivers. Incidents such as the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix where Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber collided and then ‘Multi 21’ during the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix come to mind. There were also moments of tension between Ricciardo and Verstappen, notably at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but also during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix that season.
With those sorts of examples in mind it is perhaps inevitable in a 23 race season that Perez and Verstappen will be close together on track, as Red Bull will be hoping to a certain extent. It therefore increases the probability that both drivers ‘go for the same bit of track’ and end up in a collision that could potentially be race ending for one or both. Should such a scenario play out, it will be interesting to see how Perez, Verstappen and Red Bull handle the aftermath and conduct themselves in such an event.Embed from Getty Images
Sergio Perez’s Red Bull deal is believed to currently cover only the 2021 season. As highlighted above there is a big opportunity for the Mexican to boost his reputation and therefore either extend his stay with Red Bull, or secure another competitive seat elsewhere on the grid for 2022. But alternatively this scenario does leave the Mexican in a similar situation to 2020 where he will effectively be driving to extend his stay in Formula 1.
Added to that, as also mentioned earlier, there is the potential for this to be another ‘false dawn’ for the Mexican similar to his 2013 stint with McLaren. Whether that be with the 2021 Red Bull not being as competitive as previous seasons, Perez and Verstappen having one too many collisions on track, or one too many disagreements off it.
With Perez joining, Red Bull will be an interesting team to observe in 2021. The team will no doubt be making a big push to end their Honda partnership on a high, helped by having a competitive driver line up. But there will of course be particular focus on Perez who finally gets his second chance in a ‘big team’ and a prime opportunity to make his one season Red Bull deal something more.