Sergio Perez says he is being pushed to a new level of performance by the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen now he gets to race the pair in equal machinery.
Red Bull decided to break from its traditional driver model of promoting one of its junior drivers and instead signed Perez to replace Alex Albon in order to try and improve its chances against Mercedes this year. Perez won in Baku and backed that up with a podium in France, but he was beaten to third place by Valtteri Bottas in the Styrian Grand Prix on Sunday and well off the pace of Verstappen and Hamilton, and he says it shows the standard or performance he must aspire to.
“It’s obviously a great boost of motivation throughout the season to come to a race and you know if you deliver to your maximum you can end up winning a race, you have that opportunity,” Perez said. “Also the pressure is on you — you know that you have to deliver to a very high level. You are competing against the very, very best drivers, against a very top team like Mercedes, so the level of delivering, it’s to a new level.
“Every single point and the way the team works, trying to maximize every single performance point, is very important. You are into the next level — for example my race that I had with (Lewis) Hamilton, literally against him, I was fortunate enough to see how good he is. The way he pushes you, and when he saves his tires. Obviously a very, very intelligent guy — the same to Max. Racing these drivers at this level definitely takes you to a new level.”
Perez admits he has found the transition to Red Bull to be a challenge after joining the team from Racing Point over the winter.
“I’ve found it harder than expected, the change of team. The fact that I came to such a different team in terms of power unit, car and so on — it was a big change so it took me longer than expected to get up to speed,” he said.
“I am just getting better. I wouldn’t like to do a number yet. Obviously, I hoped for more by now but still the season is very long. Ask me the question in five races’ time.
“We all know in this business how good Max is. He delivers at a very high level from FP1. On my side I am more focused on trying to get fully comfortable with things, fully up to speed. It was just a very different world to what I was used to — I think the fact that I moved from teams that are similar to others but I went to another extreme. I think that made it a bit harder.
“I am getting there — I think every single weekend we see good improvement. I see no reason why I can’t get better in the next five races, for example, to do another step. I am happy with my progression, with my level that I am delivering at but obviously, it’s not enough and I want more than that.”