By: Manena Manautou & Thiemo Albers-Daly
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix provided us all with plenty of drama. The part that Manena and I are most interested in today though, is Sergio Perez’s win and the situation around it.
Thiemo: Now obviously, a large part of the reason why Perez was able to win was because of Max Verstappen’s ill timed tyre blowout. Up until that point, Max had been dominant and it was his race to lose really. Which he then obviously did through no fault of his own.
Manena: Max was performing impeccably and leading the race until unfortunately his tires blew out. If I am honest with you, I was quite scared regarding the Team Max vs Team Lewis thing going on. I love Lewis Hamilton, but this season I am Team Max. Anyway, knowing how Max was out and Lewis would once again lead got me a bit sad. Especially after seeing LH overtake Checo for a few laps. That was just pure suspense for me. We all know how the race ended so all is well once again haha.
Thiemo: It was also natural then for Red Bull to throw all their weight behind Checo because he was the only way for them to get any points out of the Grand Prix. There’s no doubting that whilst Mercedes have been on the back foot recently, Red Bull currently have the overall better package. And Perez has had the extra challenge of not only arriving at a top team for the time but also getting to grips with the car so that he can help Red Bull win the Constructors’ Championship.
Manena: Red Bull is clearly a leading team. Despite Mercedes having the possible World Championship for 2021, I still stand by the fact that Red Bull are definitely winning the Constructors’ title. They have two very strong drivers, which if Checo were given a bit more of a chance, he could be slightly below Max Verstappen.
Thiemo: I totally agree. It will be fascinating to watch Perez for the rest of the season to see how much he can push Max. I think taken together, Red Bull have the better driver pairing against Mercedes. Obviously Hamilton is on a whole other level but Bottas hasn’t been anywhere near where he should be this year and in a one on one fight on track, I’d say that Perez could beat him now.
Manena: Checo Perez asked for 5 races to get adjusted to the car, and adjusted he is. On his 6th race he not only performed impeccably, but he WON the race. I think Red Bull is the team Sergio has always been waiting for/needing to prove his full potential. We all thought of him as a midfield driver, but I think he knew he had a top-tier game in him. But it was quite impossible for us to realize that since he had always been stuck in the same team.
Thiemo: Yeah, it wasn’t through any fault of his own that we hadn’t been able to see that side to him before. He’s always been great in getting the most out of the car and his performances at Racing Point last season prove that. Checo’s also got awesome tyre management skills that only a few drivers on the grid have and this is a brilliant weapon to have in your F1 arsenal. My only concern now is what Red Bull will do if Perez starts challenging or outperforming Max here and there. Will they let them go at it, Webber and Vettel style of old? Or will Perez have to settle for the always being the number two driver? Obviously we’re not there yet and Red Bull will be hoping that the situation stays as it is, with Max in front and Perez being the rear gunner that they’ve been missing since Ricciardo left. It means less bother for them and maximises their chances against Mercedes. But we already saw some “interesting” strategy calls in Monaco, remember?
Manena: Checo had previously led against Max as he did in Monaco, and then his mysterious pit box happened. It took them a while to keep him there. After knowing Red Bull is the team with the fastest pit stops, that made me wonder what the intention was and clearly the strategy was for Verstappen to win. It is understandable, since the battle is between Max and Lewis. Checo is doing such a great job defending his team. He’s assumed the 2nd driver role better than any second driver out there. But Checo has so much more to give; he has proven there’s a beast in him that is quite literally waiting to be unleashed. At the moment I feel he is grateful for having an opportunity to be in a team like Red Bull but I wouldn’t want him to feel stuck or to start competing against a teammate he is so fond of. I don’t blame Red Bull for supporting the other possible WC of 2021, it makes sense what they’re doing. I just wish they would give Checo a bit more opportunity too, because if Max hadn’t crashed and Checo wasn’t the 2nd driver, he would have proven to us that he could beat MV33.
Thiemo: That’s the million dollar question though, would he? I think he would have given it a good go but Red Bull might have ordered them to stay put. The last thing they want is a repeat of Baku a few years ago when Max and Daniel collided with each other down the main straight. What will be fascinating for me is seeing if Perez stays with Red Bull for next season or not. Gasly’s performed well this year and last but I’m not convinced Red Bull is the best place for him. Tsunoda needs another year at Alpha Tauri too and I don’t see anyone else getting that second seat at Red Bull. So if Perez stays for another year (and uses that as a springboard for switching teams in 2023) then I’d love to see the dynamic in the team then. Would he get equal treatment to Max or would the current set up continue? I think Perez will win more races this year and when he does, that beast you were saying about that needs to be unleashed will start stirring and when that happens, drivers tend to dream of being World Champion. Perez World Champion in 2023 with Red Bull anyone?
Photo Cover: fia.com