Sergio Perez believes it will an exciting fight between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes this year after the Silver Arrows seemed to take a big step towards restoring their race winning form in Spain.
George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton finished third and fifth respectively in Spain having looked consistently fast all weekend, and the seven-time champion pulled off an excellent recovery drive after contact on the opening lap.
But it was Red Bull who claimed a one-two finish amid a dreadful day for Ferrari as Max Verstappen led Perez home and took himself to the top of the Drivers’ Standings, while the pair helped the Austrian outfit to the top of the constructors’ battle.
The Mexican applauds a wonderful weekend for Red Bull last time out, but maintains that they must continue to avoid the reliability issues that set them back early on in the season.
“It definitely was a great day for the team,” Perez told Formula1.com.
“As always, doing a one-two for the team is just great, seeing everyone so happy, especially in a weekend where we looked to have a bit of a deficit to Ferrari, it was a great result.
“The championship is very young, 25 points is just one race so effectively yes, we will be pushing, consistency will be key.
“We’ve lost some races with reliability so we just have to make sure we don’t get hit again with reliability issues.”
Perez told the team that it was “very unfair” to ask him to move over for the Dutchman and rescind the lead of the race late on, but he has spoken to team principal Christian Horner since Sunday, and they are all pulling in the same direction.
“I think the team has a great momentum,” he affirmed.
“We had a chat after the race with Christian, with all the engineers and we all agreed that we could have done things a bit better.
“But ultimately, it was a good result and going forward, certainly the team is in a great momentum.
“I don’t think there is any other team in a good momentum like us.
“We are working really well altogether so as I said, we are having great momentum.”
Perez has been on the podium three times this season, and has nearly equalled his total of five last year.
He believes a year settling into the team in 2021, coupled with the opening first six rounds of this year, have helped him improve his performance.
“Certainly having a car and a team that you’ve been with already for a year – I’ve learned a lot, with my engineers, knowing the whole team – and I think that definitely has been a big part of it,” added the two-time race winner.
“Plus we went into a new car so we all started from zero so that also helped.”
The 32-year-old feels a lot more confidence in the car this year, and concedes that he struggled to maximise the pace of the RB16B during his debut year with the Milton Keynes-based side.
“Yeah, definitely, already from practice, just doing a good lap, you know you’ve done a good lap,” said Perez.
“Last year it was all like, I was never sure if I’ve done a good lap or not because I just had to adapt to so many different things, variables, and it was tough.
“Mentally, it was very tough because we had a great car last year but I wasn’t up to it.”
Perez has already become part of the furniture at Red Bull, and his positive relationship extends to Horner and adviser Dr Helmut Marko too.
“I really feel at home already at the team,” he stated.
“It’s a great team and I am extremely happy, and I’m enjoying working with everyone.
“In that engineering room it’s a great atmosphere and we are all racers here.
“[I have a] really good [relationship] with both of them [Horner and Dr Marko] and [I’m] super happy to be part of this team.”
The Mexican is out of contract at the end of this year and, though we are only six races into the season, he would like to start looking towards extending his stay.
“It’s early, I definitely would like to see my career extended at Red Bull,” he explained.
“I think we both feel very happy here but… it’s on the early side.”
The drivers have had to adapt to all-new cars this year after the new technical regulations re-introduced ground effect aerodynamics.
Having started his career in 2011 with Sauber, Perez has been through some changes in the pinnacle of motorsport, so his longevity has helped him acclimatise to the different machines this season.
“Certainly that does help,” he added.
“I am still young… well relatively when you see other drivers, I am in the middle of the young ones vs the old ones, I’m stuck in the middle!
“So I think yeah, great momentum and good years ahead.
“I am enjoying my time at the moment a lot, I’ve never had the opportunity before to be with a top team fighting for championships.
“So I am enjoying my time a lot, plus I am enjoying working with my group of people in the team so I am very pleased.
“I would like to carry on for a bit more but not get as old as some of the others!”
Heading into the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend, the 32-year-old has a fair bit of experience at the Principality – not all of those experiences good.
He was involved in an almighty crash in qualifying in 2011 that ruled him out of the rest of the weekend, before getting his elbows out in 2013, much to Kimi Raikkonen’s disliking, and contact with the Finn ultimately left him with terminal suspension damage.
However, he finished on the podium in 2016 before ending fourth last year, so it has been tumultuous to say the least.
“It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster for me here,” conceded Perez.
“I’ve had good moments, I’ve been on the podium – I’ve also had big crashes, so yeah, Monaco is just Monaco.
“It can go one of two ways, it can be go really good or really bad, there’s nothing in the middle.
“The weather… you never know here in Monaco what it’s going to be like.”
After Mercedes’ improved form in Spain, Perez is excited for the three-way championship battle that could await in 2022.
“I think certainly Mercedes was strong, especially Lewis,” he said.
“You saw in the race he was really, really fast and George did a great job being on the podium so they’re back.
“We knew it was just a matter of time, so having those three teams fighting at the top I think is great for the fans as well.”
Perez’s team-mate Max Verstappen won the last Monaco Grand Prix in 2021, and the Austrian outfit will be looking for some more swimming pool celebrations this year by claiming their fifth victory, but for now at least, Ferrari have been pinpointed as the favourites.