SERGIO PEREZ TO RED BULL IN 2021?
Now a senior driver in Formula 1, Sergio Perez is currently without a team beyond this season. This after Aston Martin confirmed Sebastian Vettel will be replacing him for the 2021 season.
Sergio Perez’s sensational fightback into the points at the Portuguese Grand Prix was a fantastic audition for any interested party as the Mexican continues to pitch for a place on the Formula 1 grid next year.
Perez was facing the wrong way and up against the barriers following a racing incident with Max Verstappen while battling for third place on Lap 1 of Sunday’s first-ever race at Portimao and fell to the back of the back, but he turned in gutsy recovery drive to fight his way back to seventh, earning himself the ‘driver of the day’ gong in the process.
Following on from fifth at Mugello and back-to-back fourth places in Russia and Germany, Perez scored another strong result which has moved him up to sixth in the championship and just six points behind fourth-placed Daniel Ricciardo in the battle for the ‘best of the rest’ tag in 2020. That is despite missing both Silverstone rounds due to contracting coronavirus.
Perez has scored points in every race he has finished so far this year and his performance in Portugal, coupled with a nightmare weekend for teammate Lance Stroll, was the latest example of why Racing Point has replaced the wrong driver for 2021 from a sporting standpoint.
But Racing Point’s loss could be Red Bull’s gain should it decide to drop the inconsistent and underperforming Alex Albon at the end of the season.
For a number of years now, Perez has been consistently one of the strongest drivers in the midfield, and he would be a brilliant supporting act for Verstappen at Red Bull.
Will Sergio Perez join Red Bull in 2021?
At 30 years old, Perez is in his prime and still has a number of good years ahead of him.
Red Bull wants a driver to push Verstappen and bring home strong points and podiums on a consistent basis in order to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes, and Perez is more than capable of ticking those boxes.
He has earned himself a reputation of something of a tyre-management master thanks to his ability to coax Pirelli’s tyres, a quality which has been key to a number of his impressive results over the years since he joined the F1 grid in 2011.
Earlier this year, it was this strength that was highlighted by Racing Point technical director Andrew Green, who argued Perez is one of the most underrated drivers on the grid with tyre-management skills that were akin to having “built-in traction control”.
The one area Perez might fall down is his Saturday performances. This is one of the strengths of Red Bull’s other main contender, German Nico Hulkenberg, who has impressed as a substitute for Racing Point at three races this year when first Perez and then his teammate Lance Stroll returned positive COVID-19 tests.
But Perez is no qualifying slouch, backed up with a best result of fourth place in Hungary and the fact he has comfortably out-qualified his teammate on a regular basis this year. He would surely provide Verstappen with a greater test on a Saturday than what Albon currently can.
But it is on a Sunday when Perez shines brightest. Perez’s race-craft is superb and he also has a handy knack of making the most of rare opportunities to cause an upset when the front-runners fall, with a proven record as a multiple podium finisher – something which has continued to elude Hulkenberg over the years.
Asked whether he feels Perez or Hulkenberg could handle the step up against Verstappen, Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer replied: “Sure. Both of them have the mental capacity and the mental toughness to fit in alongside Max. Both of them have that.”
2020-spec Perez is a very different driver to the one who struggled when he moved to McLaren back in 2013. He is far more composed, mature and boasts a wealth of experience that suggests he would be able to handle the pressure-cooker environment that both Pierre Gasly and Albon have wilted under.
Performance aside, Perez also boasts substantial financial backing from Mexico that would not be snuffed at by any team in the current uncertain and unstable climate caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Could Perez’s backing help fund Red Bull’s ‘Plan A’ independent engine project from 2022 and potentially even provide V6 engine guru and free agent Andy Cowell with an exciting challenge to get his teeth into following his exit from the dominant Mercedes?
In the event of Albon losing his seat to Perez, the Thai racer could slot back into AlphaTauri alongside Pierre Gasly to give him a chance of regaining his confidence much like Gasly has over the past 12 months or so.
Perez has spoken of his desire to find a project that excites him, and there would be few opportunities that could provide him with the motivation as driving race-winning machinery that Red Bull can offer.
“There are not many teams out there – actually very, very few teams,” Perez said at the Portuguese GP. “It’s not like a number, but there are very few teams out there that have a good project.
“As I’ve said before, I haven’t signed anything. So I think at the moment, there’s not a lot that I have to report or say.
“I think the season is coming to an end, so it’s getting close, and I should be in a position to say something pretty soon I think.
“Up to now, I don’t think there’s a lot of point in giving away anything, because I want to keep my negotiations private.
“I think we’ve got to be respectful of all the teams that we’re talking to, so there is no point to discuss anything at the moment.”
After unfairly losing his chance to play a role in the Aston Martin rebrand, Perez thoroughly deserves another shot at the sharp end of the grid, having proven time and time again that he can deliver week-in, week-out as one of the most capable drivers on the grid.
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