Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has detailed the areas in which he believes Sergio Perez has the beating of former Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, labelling the Finn a “loser” when it comes to close-quarter racing.
Bottas often found himself stuck behind slower cars during the middle part of races during his Mercedes career, and looked particularly tentative when trying to overtake.
Particularly notable last year were the grand prix in Mexico and Abu Dhabi, in which he spent large periods of the race caught behind the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
Sadly, these are merely a microcosm of the examples that can be picked out as to why the 32-year-old was not able to mount a serious title challenge during his time with the team, and he finished 2021 third in the Drivers’ Standings.
However, as Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton battled for supremacy at the top of the tree, it was then down to the “number two” drivers – Bottas and Perez – to attempt to seal the deal for their respective teams in the Constructors’ Championship.
They won a race each and Bottas took 11 podiums to Perez’s five in his debut Red Bull year, ultimately capitalising on the Mexican’s lacklustre qualifying pace and helping the Brackley-based team to their record eighth consecutive title.
Dr Marko recognises that there are not many drivers in the world who can match Verstappen for one-lap pace, but Perez’s standout quality lies in his ability to handle the pressure in the race.
“It’s clear to us that there is currently no driver who can stand up to Verstappen in qualifying,” he said in conversation with AutoRevue.
“But then you need someone who won’t break – that has happened with Perez.”
However, the Austrian also acknowledges that the 32-year-old’s qualifying performances cannot be entirely mitigated by his race craft, and this is an area for improvement.
“If you start ninth or 11th, all the qualities he undoubtedly has in the race won’t help you,” he explained.
“He’s driven at the same level as Verstappen in x number of races, [but] it just fizzles out by the time you’re through [the field].”
As for Bottas’ ability to overtake and make moves stick during the race, former Formula 1 driver Perry McCarthy agrees that, while Bottas possesses immense talent, the Finn’s overtaking ability leaves him wanting.
“Valtteri Bottas is a brilliantly fast racing driver. Valtteri doesn’t seem to always make the best of a race though, and I think that is the criticism,” he told Formula1News.co.uk.
“He doesn’t seem to be able to overtake and find overtaking opportunities in the same manner as Max as an example, or Lewis.”
Dr Marko did not hold back when assessing the difference in wheel-to-wheel racing ability between the two drivers.
“That’s the big difference between him [Perez] and Bottas, who is a loser when it comes to overtaking,” he added.
“He’s super fast, but he can’t overtake in traffic.”
Bottas has signed a three-year contract with Alfa Romeo and he will partner Guanyu Zhou in 2022.
Perez has been retained by Red Bull, and former Williams drover George Russell is set to partner Hamilton at the serial constructors’ champions this season.