Perez: Experience & Sunday skills key to challenging Verstappen

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Sergio Perez believes his experience and abilities on a Sunday will help him challenge Max Verstappen at Red Bull.

The Mexican was one of Formula 1's star performers last season, claiming his 1st win in Bahrain and finishing 4th in the Drivers' Championship despite missing two races with Covid-19 and retiring in two of the final three Grands Prix.

That earned Perez the opportunity at Red Bull for 2021, becoming the first driver outside the driver stable to join since 2007, but it also puts him in one of the toughest seats on the grid alongside the flying Dutchman.

“I think Max, from what I’ve seen, he’s going to be very strong in qualifying, he will be a massive benchmark in qualifying,” Perez analysed.

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“I think my strength comes in Sunday, race craft, race pace, I think that’s a pretty good match that hopefully delivers the maximum of the car.

“I’m confident in my abilities, I think it will take a bit of time before I get on top of everything, but I don’t see why, with time and once I’m on top of all the things I need to know about the car, I can’t be at my best level.”

Perez becomes the third different teammate for Verstappen in three years, since the departure of Daniel Ricciardo at the end of 2018.

And after getting his first taste of both the 2019 and 2021 Red Bull cars recently at Silverstone, Checo understands why Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon struggled to transition from Toro Rosso.

“It is quite different, I can already spot the differences,” he told of driving Adrian Newey's creations.

“[You can feel] the strong front end the car has and so on, those are things that as soon as you jump into the car and the simulator you can spot them out fairly quickly.

“I think it’s obviously a car [that] I can see why not every driver can adapt to it. I can already spot that in terms of the timing I need, to know exactly where to set up the car, where to take the final tenths out of it.

“That comes with experience in the car and learning how to make the most out of it. That’s something that will come only once I fully understand. I hope it doesn’t take me too long.”

Even if things do start a little choppy though, Perez is confident his 10 years on the F1 grid will help him get through it.

“I think that is quite a big one to be honest,” he said when asked how much of a "weapon" experience will be.

“You’re here, and when things don’t go well, pressure hits you hard, and when you are experienced, when you’ve been through it before, it just makes you focus on the right stuff.

“Technically you’ve developed a lot of skills as well throughout your career.

“I just think I’m in a great point, the opportunity comes at a great point in my career and it’s going to work out well.”

As for the other side of the garage, Verstappen spoke highly of Perez.

“With Checo, I always got on very well anyway so it’s a very relaxed and good relationship already,” he explained. 

“For me, it (Perez's arrival) honestly doesn’t really change that much. For the team, on the other hand, I think we always want to score with two cars as high as possible. So let’s see if that’s going better this year.

“That’s of course the goal, that’s what we all want, to try and make it a bit more difficult for Mercedes. I mean, they must be the favourites still. So let’s see how everything goes.”

As the first Red Bull driver to have raced with Mercedes engines during the hybrid era, Max also thinks Perez can offer a good comparison with Honda.

His information from the years he had done at another team, different power units, stuff like that, he can transfer to the team his findings and the differences,” he said. 

“So I hope, of course, it can help the team or at least gives them kind of different ideas about a few things.”