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Q&A – Perez on driving a Newey car and having F1’s ‘best driver’ as a team mate

2021 F1 season

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It’s been a challenging season for Sergio Perez as he found himself in the thick of the action at the front for the first time in his F1 career following his move to Red Bull.

Ahead of what may be the most high-pressure race he has ever faced as Red Bull look to win both world championships from Mercedes, Perez told RaceFans what he’s learned from this season with a new team, new car and with Max Verstappen as a team mate.

RF: How has your first year with Red Bull been?

Perez: “I think it has been a really challenging year, from my side. Arriving to such a different team, such a different philosophy.

“There are teams in Formula 1 that are more closer to each other in terms of driving, in terms of setting up cars, the way you look after the tyres and here I came to a team that was just 100 percent different. Nothing really had very little similarities to what I’ve done in Formula 1 in the past.

“So basically I had to start from zero – learn new techniques of setting up the car, of driving the car. It’s been a great challenge. I think it has put me into another level as a driver just due to that regard that I had to learn a different way of driving.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Perez took fifth after Q2 elimination on his Red Bull debut
RF: It’s been your first year racing an Adrian Newey-designed car – can you feel the difference?

Perez: “Yeah, of course. I mean, straight away – ‘this is a very, very good car’.

“It has a certain technique. Like every Formula 1 car, they have a very small window where they operate. And this is the same. So to find the sweet spot, I think it takes time. I think the Red Bull more than any other car in the paddock, due to the characteristics of how you have to drive the car. I have to say that it just takes time. I am still learning new techniques to exploit the maximum out of it.

“This car, it’s unbelievable when it’s at its right window.”

RF: And how difficult is it to get the car in that window?

Perez: “It’s very challenging. Very, very challenging to get the tyres, to get the car in that sweet spot. It’s not been easy.”

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Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021
His only win of the season so far came in Baku
RF: How have you found switching from the Mercedes to the Honda power unit?

Perez: “Completely different. The way you apply the power in the Honda, it’s such a different one to the Mercedes.

“It’s been also a very good experience as a driver, you want to go through very different scenarios of engines, of cars, of tyres and so on, and this has definitely opened up my window a lot.”

RF: When you’re at the front, mistakes and bad days are more costly. How difficult has it been, being at the front?

Perez: “It’s been a very challenging year in that regard because the consistency hasn’t been a straightforward season all the way through.

“When you come to a team that is already fighting for the title, you see all the mistakes. And probably if you are in a team that is under the radar a bit more, you don’t see those mistakes as often. But I think it’s just part of the process. I look forward to take another gear for next year, now that I am fully adapted with Red Bull.”

RF: What has it been like to have Max Verstappen as a team mate?

Perez: “I think Max – there is no other driver who is so at one with the car like Max is. I think he’s been at Red Bull for a long time and you can see it straight away.

“You still see some weaknesses with all drivers’ cars, but Max – the way that he’s at one with the car, I don’t think there’s anyone that compares to him in that regard. He’s really, really into it. He’s at a very high level, as we can see, and I think I have a tremendous benchmark with him.”

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Verstappen is a “fantastic benchmark”, says Perez
RF: Is it not difficult to have to go up against him as a team mate every weekend?

Perez: “No, I see it as a very positive thing. Because you have a fantastic benchmark with him.

“From first practice, you have a great reference to him to live up to get great results. So ultimately, as a driver, you want to be working with the best. And I think, right now, he is the best in Formula 1.”

RF: You think he’s better than you?

Perez: “I think with this car, yes. I have to accept that. As a driver, you have to be realistic and he’s at a tremendously high level. The way he he drives this car, he’s just at one. It’s years of experience with it, and he’s at a very high level there.”

RF: Next year’s car will be completely new – do you think you’ll compete closer with Verstappen?

Perez: “I think so. Next year it’s a new opportunity to start from zero and go from there. I think that’s something that can be very good for me.”

RF: How involved have you been in the development of the 2022 car?

Perez: “Quite involved. We’ve done a lot of simulation, we’ve done some following and comments and so on.”

RF: Finally, who will win on Sunday?

Perez: “Red Bull! I’m confident that Red Bull will come out on top.”

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2021 F1 season

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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15 comments on “Q&A – Perez on driving a Newey car and having F1’s ‘best driver’ as a team mate”

  1. I think nothing but silence is appropriate from Perez, the man that didnt contribute to his team at all, except maybe Baku but to be honest he was already lost before the first corner and lucked into victory. I would go for any one else next year.

    1. Second in constructors with mathematical possibly of winning constructors. Solid 4th in championship standing second year in a row? Yeah, he has contributed much. What a loser.

    2. Patrick Chapman
      11th December 2021, 9:47

      I think that you are being unrealistic in your comments and very unfair to Checo in your conclusions. I see him as a far better driver than people give him credit for. It’s only his first season with RB so the smart person would give him sufficient time to prove his worth or not. The fact that RB is giving him a second season speaks volumes as to their opinion of his worth. We all know that if he is as bad as you say he is then RB would have dumped him, the fact that they didn’t says that they disagree with you as I do.

    3. Seeing you put in that comment before qualifying today Mayrton, I’d advise you to just go and watch that. Perez gave a great tow to help Max get the best out of the car for the whole lap to nail it on pole. And he followed it up with a really decent lap to get himself within half a second of Hamilton starting ahead of Bottas, to back up Max in the race as well.

      Not the first time he’s done a solid team job either

    4. I don’t fully agree or fully disagree, I expected more from perez, but he’s done a solid job in some cases, but I won’t go as far as saying he’s done well for example in this quali session like bascb said: notice verstappen was doing the same lap on his 2nd run without the tow? And notice perez got beaten by norris?

    5. That did not age well.

  2. Checo!
    First time I’ve ever seen him being a creep.
    Fingers well crossed for him at RBR next season.
    RBR worst churn & burn drivers outfit ever.

  3. No doubt being teammate to the fastest F1 driver since Alonso is a massive task.

    Hope he can really focus over the winter and come back stronger than ever.

    1. I consider Alonso as one of the top 3 racers in F1 history, however “fastest” does not fit him too well. He is extremely consistent but not that fast. Fur pure speed, as a qualifier he never was that great.

      1. Very true, consistency is alonso’s strongest suit.

  4. Best driver lol. Glad it’s in quotes.

  5. “And I think, right now, he is the best in Formula 1.”

    What some drivers have to say to keep a job…

    When a driver admits that the other driver is better than him, I wonder if his career is not over yet. His confidence must be very low…

    RBR is a weird team to say the least, some drivers need to suck someone else’s balls just to stay there. A team that fires people in the middle of the season among other things. For sure, Perez needs to feel lucky to be in F1 just because RBR and then he needs to say such things.

    We don’t see these type of stuff with other teams.

  6. I’m still wondering if Albon could have done a better job considering he had more seat time. But then again I am in full agreement to bring Perez to the team. He provide valuable information on why other’s can’t get to grips with the Newey design philosophy.

    1. Jose Lopes da Silva
      11th December 2021, 12:34

      Like Ricciardo?

  7. An interesting interview, at least he admits he’s not as good as verstappen, I find it strange that a lot of drivers think they are the best when it’s clear they’re not; perhaps he could become a better number 2 than bottas with a season of experience under his belt.

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