He was also out-qualified by Verstappen on every single Saturday in the season, whereas Mexican Perez – having claimed his maiden F1 win at the Sakhir Grand Prix – has made it obvious he intends to challenge his new team-mate.
Ex-Racing Point driver Perez insists he will “overdeliver” for the Austrian drinks giants and vowed: “If we have a car that can win the championship, I’ll make sure we win it.
“And if not, and we only have a car that’s good enough for third, I will make sure that we finish second.”
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The 31-year-old will certainly give his all and ‘Checo’ can help his new team greater utilise tactics to at least put Mercedes under pressure. If Red Bull could get in between Hamilton and Bottas on the starting grid more often or even seal some front-row lockouts, that would certainly help their chances.
In addition Albon’s inconsistencies, Verstappen was also prevented from posing a greater challenge to Hamilton last season by mechanical failures but if he can avoid as many DNFs in 2021 and Perez can produce strong and consistent performances, the gap can be closed.
Whether it can be closed enough for him to take Hamilton’s crown is another matter entirely. It still feels as if when seven-time champion Hamilton is truly in the zone, he is untouchable, even despite Verstappen’s pace. See here: the Turkish Grand Prix.