The Team Principal of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Toto Wolff, believes Sergio Pérez will be ‘very strong’ for Red Bull Racing this season and could be a stronger opponent for Mercedes in 2021.
Red Bull dropped Alexander Albon to test and reserve driver for 2021 after a difficult second season in Formula 1, opting to replace him with Pérez after he was released by BWT Racing Point Formula One Team, now Aston Martin Racing, in favour of four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel. After it was announced in September that Vettel would replace Pérez at Aston Martin for 2021, it seemed likely that the Mexican would be without a seat after also missing out on rides with the Haas F1 Team and Williams Racing.
The thirty-one-year-old enjoyed one of his best seasons in Formula 1, finishing in fourth place on one hundred and twenty-five points – his highest-ever finish in the World Championship – and won his maiden Grand Prix at the Sakhir Grand Prix. Albon became another victim of Max Verstappen’s dominance at Red Bull, picking up just two podiums in 2020 compared to Belgian’s nine. The young driver managed to pick up 105 points, less than half of Verstappen’s total, to finish seventh.
Pérez outscored the Red Bull driver in a much less competitive car, scoring twenty more points than Albon even though the Mexican was forced to miss the two races at Silverstone after testing positive for COVID-19.
Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton said in December that Perez “deserved” the seat at Red Bull, with his Mercedes team boss also agreeing with British driver. Wolff now believes Red Bull are a ‘much stronger’ team next season, not only with Perez partnering Verstappen, but also with Honda’s revised power unit.
“Definitely, I think Red Bull, with Pérez, will be a much stronger opponent in terms of the constructors’ championship,” Wolff said in an interview with Austrian TV channel ORF. “I reckon Sergio will be very strong. It will also be interesting to see how Pérez holds up against Verstappen. It’s a new opponent.
“Otherwise, it’s a season with the same cars as last year. I think Honda will really step on the gas to compete for the championship in their last year as a manufacturer. That’s why it will be quite interesting.”
Mercedes have been the dominant force in the last ten years, winning the constructor championship for a seventh consecutive season in 2020 – over 200 points more than Red Bull in second place. The Milton Keynes-based team are hoping Pérez’s addition can help them close the gap on Mercedes, and help Verstappen in battles against Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.