Former Formula 1 driver Allan McNish believes that Sergio Perez is proving to Red Bull that he is not there to be a backup to Max Verstappen, and that he can be a front runner in the championship.
Perez was consistently faster than Verstappen throughout the weekend in Monaco as the Dutchman struggled to find a rhythm, and the 32-year-old out-qualified him for the second time this season by taking third on Saturday.
In changing conditions, Ferrari made catastrophic errors with polesitter Charles Leclerc’s strategy, before traffic on Carlos Sainz’s out lap after his transition to Slicks cost him the lead to Perez.
The Mexican held on superbly to fend off Sainz on dead tyres towards the end of the race, and it was a statement to Red Bull, particularly after the team orders in Spain, that he is a force to be reckoned with this year.
McNish observes that Horner now has two drivers at the top of their game who are both more than capable of winning races.
“Sergio drove a fantastic race,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.
“It brings him [to within] 15 points of the lead of the World Championship. It certainly does give Christian Horner a bit of a positive headache.
“I would say it’s a luxurious problem to have – there are a lot of teams who would like to be in that position.”
The Scot, who has won Le Mans twice, finished eight races with Toyota in 2002, and is now team principal of the Audi Formula E team, finds himself mightily impressed that Perez was able to beat Verstappen over the course of the weekend in the Principality.
“He drove a really good race, and he put himself into the position when Ferrari maybe didn’t get the strategy right that he was ready to take it,” added McNish.
“Probably the thing for me over the weekend… he was quicker than Max Verstappen – consistently quicker than Max. And being quicker than Max, at any time, is pretty tough.
“I think he’s put himself into a position where, within Red Bull, he is not a number two – he’s sort of coming to be like a ‘number one-ish’.
“That’s something that’s very good for them, because they’ve got two strong guys in the fight against Ferrari.”
McNish also praised the Mexican’s ability to hold off Sainz despite tricky circumstances at the end of the race when Red Bull put Mediums onto their drivers’ cars to go to the end as opposed to Hards for the Ferraris.
“I think his overall race strategy, his personal race strategy, was superb. Especially at the end, when you had Sainz on the harder tyre,” he affirmed.
“He was graining his fronts, he had traffic coming up ahead of him, and he just managed to contain it all so he caught them at the right time and it didn’t give Sainz any option to have a go at him.”
The third win of Perez’s career, coupled with Verstappen’s P3, puts Red Bull 36 points ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.