Marko hails Perez: ‘He has driven many races at Max’s pace’

Dr Helmut Marko has praised Sergio Perez, but admitted it's impossible to know if Nico Hulkenberg would have done better.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko is pleased with the team’s decision to sign Sergio Perez for the 2021 season following a positive year for the Mexican.

Perez was out of contract at Racing Point at the end of last season, before he was eventually signed to Red Bull to replace the departing Alex Albon.

The Mexican claimed his first F1 victory at the chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix last year at a time when he still did not have a drive finalised for 2021.

Perez’s name was often mixed in with Nico Hulkenberg’s for the Red Bull seat, with the German impressing when deputising for both Perez and Lance Stroll when the pair contracted COVID-19 in 2020.

He won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this year, but was often criticised for his qualifying displays as well as for falling back from team-mate Max Verstappen during races.

READ: Marko predicts similar 2022 front-runners barring ‘golden shot’

Dr Marko is however satisfied with the work that Perez has done to support the Dutchman, particularly at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which Verstappen dramatically won the championship.

Sergio Perez defends against Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.v1

“Checo had his ups and downs. One of the weak moments was in qualifying, to a certain extent,” Dr Marko said.

“When you start eighth, ninth or 11th, it takes too long to be able to support Max. By that, I mean the possibility of the Safety Car [undercut] is gone and things like that.

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“But in Abu Dhabi he did an ideal job, and he also helped a lot for Max to get this victory. I remember a similar situation in Turkey where he also crossed Hamilton and where it also took him a long time to pass Perez.”

The 78-year-old says he will never know if Hulkenberg would have done a better job this season had he been signed, but reckons the decision to work with Perez has been vindicated.

“It’s difficult to say because we don’t have Hulkenberg in the car. But Perez has shown he has incredible experience when everything is right for him, and he has driven in many races at Max’s pace.”

Dr Marko insisted that Perez’s qualifying performance needs to improve, but is pleased with the 31-year-old’s overall form.

“Because of the bad starting positions it came into play, but overall it was the right decision.”

Verstappen has stated that he would like Red Bull to give Perez a fair shot at the title next year.

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