Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner says his team desperately needs Sergio Perez’s better performances to be able to help Max Verstappen fight Mercedes, but he understands it will take some more time.
Perez had a solid but not spectacular start to his career at Red Bull with only one good qualifying in Imola, and in the other three races he had to catch up up after poor performances on Saturday.
Ironically, only in Imola, where he started second and was faster than Verstappen in qualifying, did he not score points while he was fifth, fourth and fifth in the other three races.
In Spain, he was only eighth at the start after a mistake in the first Q3 lap, and in the race he lost a lot of time behind Ricciardo in McLaren so he could not threaten Leclerc in Ferrari who finished fourth.
“This isn’t an easy track to overtake on which made for a tough race,” said Perez.
“We had a good first lap and made up some positions but it took me quite a long time to get past Daniel.”
“The McLaren was extremely fast on the straights so it was really hard to try a move but we made it work around the outside of Turn 1. I knew what I had to do, I pushed on and managed to make it work but we didn’t have much tyre life left afterwards so it was tough.
“I’m getting more confident with the car now,” he insisted, “and every time I get to the end of a weekend, I think, ‘I wish the weekend was just starting now’.
“Also every circuit is different so what I learn here will be different to what I need in Monaco, but the main thing is that I am still adapting and hopefully soon we can be 100%.”
Perez i Ricciardo na VN Španjolske 2021. (Photo: Red Bull)
Horner says Perez must get to his maximum level as soon as possible to help Verstappen fight Hamilton and Bottas after Hamilton was able to enter the pits for a second time after two-thirds of the race without wasting time because Perez was too far away.
“The two lead guys were so far ahead of the rest of the pack as it were, that Lewis had a free stop as he had in Hungary,” said Horner.
“You know that he’s only got to get past his team-mate and that was never going to be an issue.”
“So that’s why we need both cars up there strategically so that option isn’t available to Mercedes.
“I think it’s coming together for him. He had an off-day and he was compromised in the race behind Daniel. Obviously then he didn’t manage to make the headway at a track where it is so difficult to pass, because we desperately need him to be in that gap so that the Mercedes’ don’t have the strategic options that they had.”
“I’m convinced that that will come for Checo, as he finds more confidence, and more time in the car.”
Although Red Bull lost the last two races in Portugal and Spain, Horner thinks Mercedes was just faster in the race conditions, but that Red Bull was much closer than in previous years.
“I think the Mercedes – we’ve seen it since Bahrain – I think that their race pace has been better than ours at each race that we’ve seen so far and I think that their degradation, you know, has been better than ours.”
“So we knew these last two circuits would play to their strengths, and they done that, but we’re an awful lot closer than we have been.”