Former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde believes Red Bull dropping Alex Albon and signing Sergio Perez was the “correct” decision, as it will give them a better chance of taking the fight to Mercedes next year.
However, van der Garde has warned that Perez could potentially push Max Verstappen hard in some races and put him “on edge”, though he expects Verstappen to be comfortably ahead in qualifying.
“Sergio can help Max. With his speed in the race, he can be of strategic value to Max and Red Bull, but Max also just needs a team-mate who will challenge him every now and then,” Van der Garde said in an interview with Formule1.nl.
“He now gets someone next to him who could be faster in turn one, six and seven or wherever, and that triggers Max. In short: this [signing Perez] is the only and correct decision.
“I think Max will be put on edge by Perez. At least in the races, because in qualifying he normally doesn’t really have a chance. I don’t think he is as fast as Max, but it will be close.”
Continuing, the ex-F1 driver said he believes having a strong rear-gunner will help Verstappen battle the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, as he won’t always be outnumbered by them.
“That is only good because, with someone there, you can make strategic choices in the races in a duel with Mercedes. Last year, Max always had to do it alone, while Mercedes always had two men in the front.
“With Perez there, they can play [with strategies] more. That makes it an interesting battle,” he added.
Continuing, he described Perez as a “good guy and a hard worker.”
Van der Garde raced against Perez in the now-defunct GP2 Series, and said he wasn’t particularly impressive in qualifying, but he has excellent tyre management skills and often performed very strongly on Sundays.
“There he made the difference, especially in the races. In qualifying he was okay, but I was sometimes quite a bit faster, only then he sometimes had those races where he passed you and you thought ‘how?’
“I think it’s mainly in his driving technique. He’s not the type that in one round – bang! – gets everything out, although he’s got better at it.
“I really think he has made a step in qualifying but as I said, he has a certain driving technique that is particularly well reflected in the races. He is really good at saving tyres, he always has that under control,” he added.