Sergio Pérez is replacing Alex Albon on the Red Bull Formula One team next year, which sets up, among other things, the delightful prospect of Pérez beating Sebastian Vettel week in and week out. Beyond that, though, how do you think he will do? Because I think he’ll do pretty well.
Pérez finished fourth this year in the driver’s standings, quite a bit better than his teammate Lance Stroll, who finished 11th, and just behind his future teammate, Max Verstappen, who finished third. Pérez also finished higher than the man he’ll replace, Alex Albon, who finished seventh.
You’d think that in the quicker Red Bull next year Pérez would have more than a fighting chance to at least repeat his fourth-place finish and possibly even higher. At the very least he should provide a sterner test for Verstappen, given that Pérez has ten years of experience behind the wheel in F1, and really seemed to come into his own last year, recording his first win at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The big question, of course, is whether Pérez can challenge for the title, in a year before the sweeping rules changes that will mean that Mercedes are again expected to finish first and second. And while the race for second was competitive this year — just nine points separated Verstappen and Valterri Bottas — Bottas was also hugely unlucky during stretches of this season, so you’d expect him to be a bit better next.
Which would, in turn, provide Verstappen and Pérez with a tougher challenge. The only thing I’m reasonably sure of is that Pérez will finish higher than Vettel, who is taking Pérez’s seat at Racing Point, rebranded as Aston Martin next year. Vettel finished 13th this year, or five places behind Charles Leclerc, his teammate.
All of which leaves me with the feeling that Pérez will finish a shock third next season, having so thoroughly outdriven his teammate this season, even if that teammate was Lance Stroll. A lot of things have to go right for him to make that happen, but it wouldn’t be an outlandish result.
Pérez himself is shooting straight for the top.
“I am incredibly grateful to Red Bull for giving me the opportunity to race for Red Bull Racing in 2021. The chance to race for a championship contending team is something I have been hoping for since I joined Formula One and it will be a proud moment to step onto the grid in Red Bull colours alongside Max.
“You can be sure that I will give next season my full focus. The Team has the same winning mentality as me and I know I am here to perform and help the Team fight for another title.”
How do you think Pérez will do?