Lewis Hamilton has reacted to Red Bull’s signing of Sergio Perez, saying he is “so happy” that the Mexican will still be in Formula One next year after having such a strong 2020 season.
However, the seven-time World Champion has warned that Perez will make Max Verstappen and Red Bull a bigger threat, as he believes the two Mercedes will no longer outnumber the Dutch ace at the front.
Asked if he is excited by the prospect of going up against Verstappen and Perez next season, Hamilton replied: “Yeah definitely.
“With all due respect to Alex, in the races that we’ve had it’s been me, Valtteri [Bottas] against Max. I’ve been in the position where Max is, when I was at McLaren when I was the lead car and the second car wasn’t in the fight.
“When we were fighting against Ferrari, they could play around with the strategy and make it a lot harder for us.
“Naturally, this makes Red Bull stronger, particularly with the way Sergio is performing. I think Sergio has driven incredibly well this year, and truly deserved a drive. I was so, so, so happy to hear he was taken on by one of the top teams and given this opportunity.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting battle to watch him up against Max. That’s going to make it much harder for us as a team, we’re going to have to really step up our game, because that’s going to be a battle we haven’t seen for some time, having the two drivers there fighting against us.
“But we relish that as a team, that’s what we work towards, we love the challenge and it’s going to make it that much more exciting,” Hamilton added.
Meanwhile, Max Verstappen said he doesn’t think Perez joining Red Bull will affect his own performance, but he believes it could help the team apply more pressure onto the Mercedes drivers.
“Most of the time when we were competitive this year, I was the only car trying to beat them and trying to do something different,” Verstappen said.
“But they can always do the right strategy with one of them, because they will cover me with one car.
“It was always a little bit difficult to fight them, I hope that Checo will first of all of course, push the team forward but also to keep me on my toes, which is always nice, to have a team-mate pushing you, it’s exciting.”
Verstappen added that he gave his “honest opinion” on Alex Albon when the team was deciding its 2021 driver line-up.
“Of course we spoke about it, I just gave my honest opinion. I think it was quite clear that throughout the whole year, it was sometimes quite tricky for Alex.
“He’s a great guy, I’m happy he’s part of the team still. But at the end of the day, it’s Helmut, Christian and of course Dietrich making the decisions. I knew a bit before, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter,” Verstappen added.