Red Bull's motorsport advisor, Helmut Marko, has praised Sergio Perez for his overall performance in 2021, but urged the Mexican to improve as a qualifier during the upcoming season.
Perez experienced a mixed first season with Red Bull, struggling for consistency against the metronomic Max Verstappen as his teammate.
But Perez's late-season form, including a disruptive defensive drive in Abu Dhabi, rewarded Red Bull for keeping the faith in him for a second season.
It was Perez's mental fortitude that impressed Marko the most, with the Austrian saying the team's new signing simply "didn't break" during his rollercoaster campaign.
"It's clear to us that there is currently no driver who can stand up to Verstappen in qualifying," Marko told AutoRevue.
"But then you need someone who won't break – that has happened with Perez."
As for where Perez needs to improve, Marko highlighted his qualifying performances.
"If you start ninth or 11th, all the qualities he undoubtedly has in the race won't help you," Marko said.
"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]."
Marko added, however, that in the battle of the top teams' 'number twos' in 2021, Perez had a clear advantage over Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.
"That's the big difference between him and Bottas, who is a loser when it comes to overtaking," Marko bluntly said. "He's super fast, but he can't overtake in traffic."
Perez looking forward to "taking another gear" in F1 2022
Perez has previously explained to RacingNews365.com how he initially struggled to figure out the unique characteristics of the Red Bull RB16B, but is now looking forward to starting 2022 with a blank sheet of paper with the new regulations.
"When you come to a team that is already fighting for the title, you see all the mistakes [from a driver], and probably if you're in a team that is under the radar a bit more, you don't see those mistakes as often," he commented.
"I think it's just part of the process. But I look forward to take another gear for next year, now that I'm fully adapted with Red Bull.
"I think we matched really well, really quickly, within the Red Bull family. And very early on, Helmut and Christian [Horner, Red Bull's team boss] told me to not look anywhere else, because they wanted to carry on with me."
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