Sergio Perez believes Max Verstappen might be the fastest driver on the Formula 1 grid and expects the Dutchman to offer a serious challenge as his Red Bull teammate.
Verstappen finished third in the drivers’ championship last season with two victories and only failed to finish on the podium on one occasion – Turkey – in races where he saw the checkered flag. The gap between Verstappen and Alex Albon is one of the reasons Red Bull opted to sign Perez for 2021, and the Mexican admits he will have his work cut out against the 23-year-old.
“It’s a big challenge for myself,” Perez said. “We all know Max, how talented, how fast (he is) and how much he has grown in the past years – how complete he is right now. He’s definitely one of the best and one of the fastest if not the fastest out there on the current grid.
“So it’s a massive challenge in a way. He’s been here a long time, he knows what he needs from the car. But it’s a great challenge and I look forward to working with him and pushing the team forwards together.”
Although Perez has promised to over-deliver for Red Bull this season, he says he is also up against it when it comes to pre-season testing given the single three-day test before the opening race.
“It’s very different in a way that it’s a new team, there are so many things that you have to learn and it just takes a bit of time,” he said. “I will just get better and better at knowing the team, understanding what I need, it just takes a bit of time. It’s building all the processes, putting all of that work into the pre-season. I’ve already spent a good amount of time with my new engineers, that’s the key to try to speed up the process.
“I’ve done a couple of days on the sim already, I have a good idea of what the Red Bull car is like, so it’s already in the back of my head. But we are in that time where nothing comes easy, you have to really learn and work to get up to speed with the car but it’s getting there.
“It’s going to be very limited testing this year with only a day and a half in the car – it’s very little. But it is what it is, it’s the same for everybody. There are a lot of drivers changing teams so it will be nice to see who adapts the fastest to a new team.”