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Can Perez match Verstappen at Red Bull?

Can Perez match Verstappen at Red Bull?

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Can Perez match Verstappen at Red Bull?

Can Perez match Verstappen at Red Bull?

Sergio Perez has officially spent his first day in Milton Keynes as a Red Bull Racing driver.

The Mexican has taken over Alex Albon's duties off the back of a sublime season for Racing Point last year in which he secured his first race win and finished fourth in the drivers' standings.

With the second seat at Red Bull seemingly a poisoned chalice as of late, can Perez take on new team-mate Max Verstappen and help the team challenge Mercedes?

Qualifying performance

Of course, any direct comparison between the two drivers is nigh-on impossible until the cars take to the track in anger at the opening race of the season in Bahrain in March.

Looking back at last season, however, Perez may have cause for optimism arriving into Verstappen's 'home'.

If we compare the average qualifying deficits between Perez whilst at Racing Point to Verstappen directly with the differences between the Dutchman and Alex Albon, then the Mexican may fancy his chances.

For the purposes of this exercise, we are excluding a number of races - Speilberg [wet], both Silverstone rounds [Perez missed out through Covid-19], Turkey [abnormal track conditions] and Abu Dhabi [Perez sat out Q2 due to an engine change].

Over the course of the remaining 12 races, Perez actually out-qualified Verstappen on two occasions [Hungary and Italy], whilst Albon never achieved such a feat.

In terms of average times, Perez was 0.384secs adrift of his new team-mate across the season compared to Albon who was half-a-second down on average.

Taking machinery into account then the new year could see plenty of close qualifying battles between the new partnership.

Will Perez break the curse of the rear-end twitch?

One of the major difficulties suffered by Albon and predecessor Pierre Gasly has been the unstable rear-end of the Red Bull.

As has been evident since Sebastian Vettel's title-winning days, Adrian Newey's design strategy is radical and the set-up work to accommodate such ideology induces a high-rake, pointed philosophy.

Even the least engineering-driven fans can see the difference in angle between the front and rear of any iteration of Red Bull F1 car, especially in comparison to its rivals.

Perez will need to get on top of the aggressively agile back-end if he is to succeed with the car and the familiarisation may be difficult given he has transferred from the RP20 - a car based on the low-rake philosophy of the Mercedes W10 - with just a maximum of one-and-a-half days pre-season testing.

How long will it take him to get up to speed?

Verstappen brilliance may not afford Perez chance

It seems as though the Dutchman has many similar qualities to Lewis Hamilton, given his relentlessness and sheer speed behind the wheel, as well as his ability to drive a team forward to make it his own, even at such a young age.

Daniel Ricciardo, believing the team favoured Verstappen over him, opted not to stay and joined Renault, while the pressure was ultimately too much for Gasly and Albon.

But do not forget, Perez has plenty of ability to ensure he does not buckle. It is easy to point to his victory last year and say 'It was handed to him'.

The fact of the matter is he had to battle for his win. On other occasions, he has made the most of a race to claim podiums in cars that really should not have been there on merit.

What do Red Bull need from him?

It was mentioned over and over again last season with regard to Albon and the same applies this year. Verstappen, indeed the whole team, cannot take down the might of Mercedes with a single car.

Having a two-pronged attack limits its rival's strategy options and allows the pit-wall to get creative with decisions of its own.

Oh, and there is the fact Perez is possibly the best tyre-manager on the grid, potentially opening up the team's options even more.

Overall, there is no reason to suggest Perez cannot match Verstappen in qualifying and during a race, and if that's the case, Red Bull has a genuine chance of keeping Mercedes honest.

As far as Perez is concerned, challenge accepted.

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