For the third time in three seasons, Max Verstappen will have a different teammate beside him at Red Bull Racing for the first race of the new season.
After Pierre Gasly (2019) and Alex Albon’s (2020) struggles, the Milton Keynes-based team have turned to the newest Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez to try and boost their hopes of having two cars to fight Mercedes in 2021, if their package is up to it.
Horner noted Checo’s valuable experience in Formula One. The British team principal also praised his strong pace on Sundays in 2020 and Horner believes he can push Max Verstappen harder than Alex Albon did last year.
“Checo has a lot of experience and has been driving in Formula 1 for 10 years,” Horner said in an interview with RacingNews365. “His performances last season were great, especially in races, where he was very strong.
"I think he can push Max more than [Alexander] Albon did last season. Hopefully that will make us stronger as a unit in our fight with Mercedes.”
Horner has previous experience with the 30-year-old as Perez drove for Arden – the team Horner founded – back in GP2 back in 2009. The 47-year-old team boss shared some of his memories of Perez from the British Formula 3 International Series in 2008, as well as GP2.
He speaks highly of Perez’s ability to take podiums when he didn’t necessarily have a car capable of challenging for them. His strong tyre management ability has also caught the attention of Horner.
“I can still remember his year in Formula 3,” Horner stated. “Checo did a great job and won some races, including at Monza [a double win]. He was very impressive and worked with Adrian Fernandez, and Carlos Slim was also in close contact with him.
“In his first year in GP2, he was always stronger in races than in qualifying. He had the determination to never give up. Sergio was like a young dog with a bone. I think that has become his trademark in terms of racing.
“It’s no coincidence that he managed to reach the podium in cars that didn’t belong on the podium,”
“He is very determined during the races and his tyre management is very good. Sergio is now at a stage in his career where he is very well-rounded.”
“He manages his tyres very well,” Horner continued. “However, we aren’t just looking at one thing, we are looking at the total package.
“We looked at his overall performance. Whether it was Istanbul (where he finished second) or both races in Bahrain (third before retiring followed by a win) his performances in 2020 were very impressive.”
It was confirmed by Horner that Perez’s financial backing didn’t influence their decision in who should partner Max Verstappen this season. However, he did say that there was enormous interest in Checo’s signing; it was the biggest he’d ever seen since the team joined the sport in 2005.
“Red Bull don’t focus on that,” he stated. “Perez’s popularity in Latin America, and Mexico in particular, will be looked at in the coming months.”
“The interest surrounding his announcement was the biggest we have ever seen at Red Bull,” Horner stated. “It’s great that Formula 1 is so popular, plus we have so many more (social media) platforms at our disposal than years ago. We’ve seen tremendous growth in traffic from Latin America, which is good for Formula 1."
Dreaming of that first race 💭 Just 65 days to go 😄🇧🇭 pic.twitter.com/XzYdMFuZ4E— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) January 21, 2021