Red Bull unveiled their new car for the 2021 season this morning and a few hours later, Sergio Perez had the chance to drive his first laps as an official Red Bull Racing driver, getting behind the wheel of the RB15 from the 2019 season around Silverstone.
After spending the last seven years racing for Force India/Racing Point – now re-branded into Aston Martin – the Mexican driver finds itself in the position to really make the decisive step to upgrade his career in 2021.
However, his move to Red Bull’s team has left him feeling like a “dog finding a new family”, said Sergio Perez in an interview a few weeks ago.
Sergio describes his first experience behind the wheel of the RB15as a "dream come true".
“It’s been amazing,” said Checo after completing his first laps on the car. “To look at my name on the car is something very special. It’s definitely a dream come true. We’ve already done a lot of work in the simulator working on the controls and I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in terms of feeling more comfortable in the car. Everything about the car is different. It’s still an F1 car in the end but the seating position is different, the steering wheel, the brakes, the buttons, procedures, the engine and the power delivery, the torque, so many things are different. But I can see there is so much potential with this Team.”
His first laps at Silverstone were mostly short runs, as the team wanted to focus on seat-fitting optimisation, pedal adjustments and getting the Mexican to familiarise with all the operational procedures before getting into day two - which, on the other hand, will be more centred around long runs and race weekend preparation.
After demoting Alex Albon to reserve and test driver, Red Bull signed Perez and saved him from a totally undeserved sabbatical year, aimed to add to the team a driver capable of delivering consistent results – yet, the shift to the Milton Keynes-based team is not that easy.
With a huge, potentially career-changing move, comes an equally huge challenge – adjusting to a completely new team, with different internal dynamics and coming to terms with a different car (and teammate), within a very limited amount of time.
“In a way, it is very different to the teams that I worked for, the organization is tremendously high, a lot of people and the resources that are here are very impressive,” says Perez
“It’s like a dog finding a new family. You’ve been a family for so many years and you are used to seeing them and then all of a sudden you are changing.
“But I have to say, I am starting to feel very comfortable here. It’s a fantastic team, very united, and I can see that there is a lot of fun ahead of us.
Perez has already sampled Red Bull’s simulator and spent time with his engineering crew. However, he was given the possibility of driving the 2019 RB15 to get used to Red Bull’s procedures and new elements like its steering wheel and Honda engine in a live environment, prior to joining team-mate Max Verstappen in shaking down the 2021 car on Wednesday, for the planned filming day.
As F1 has reduced the schedule for pre-season testing, today’s RB15 and Wednesday’s RB16B runs will be part of a fast-tracked learning process for Perez, who will have to just three days of running in Bahrain before his real Red Bull debut.
“[I am] speeding up the process, putting that work into the pre-season. I’ve already spent a good amount of time with my engineers. That’s the key to try to speed up the process.
“I’ve driven a couple of days on the sim already. I have a good idea of what the Red Bull car is like. It’s already in the back of my head, the car, but we are in that time where nothing comes easy.
Former Racing Point driver achieved the top step of the podium, becoming a Grand Prix winner in 2020 and finished with a career-best fourth place in the championship standing. As a solid and experienced driver, rather than a rookie, he believes he can boost Red Bull’s package and be more than just a dependable number two.
Perez says he's ready to prove his worth and, although his new family might look a bit intimidating at first, he’s sure this is what he’s been waiting for.
“It’s a moment for me to prove to myself that I can take the next step,” says Perez.
“Now I seem to have the machinery in my hands.
“These opportunities only come once in your life. I know that and I’m ready to make it work.”
As he headed out on the Silverstone track today, Sergio Perez also revealed his new neon yellow helmet for the upcoming season, and he is visibly excited for it.
“I was so much looking forward to this moment […] the helmet is a very important element for any driver. This one is definitely my most favourite helmet in my career.
“As a very special touch, I put the ‘never give up’ on the back,” says the driver
“Every time I put my helmet on I can see it, which is a reminder not to give up, never.”