Former F1 driver and sportscar legend Allan McNish believes that Sergio Perez is hauling himself into contention as an equal number one at Red Bull, rather than continuing to play a supporting role to Max Verstappen.
Perez has signed a two-year contract extension with the Milton Keynes-based squad, in a deal that was finalised in the run-up to his impressive Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
With the Mexican driver finding his feet at Red Bull after a mixed first season with the team in 2021, McNish believes that Perez is putting himself into a position where team boss Christian Horner now has a problem to sort out – that of managing two drivers vying for leadership.
"Sergio, to me, drove a fantastic race," McNish said on the F1 Nation podcast.
"It brings him 15 points from
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."
McNish: Perez is becoming a Red Bull "number one-ish"
McNish said it was particularly impressive that, following his strong Spanish Grand Prix showing, Perez followed it up with a weekend where he clearly had the measure of Verstappen in Monaco.
"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," McNish added.
"Probably the thing for me over the weekend [was
that] he was quicker than Max Verstappen – consistently quicker than
Max. And being quicker than Max, [at] any time, is pretty tough.
"Being quicker than Max around here is very 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."
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Perez expertly handled the pressure, says McNish
McNish explained that he was particularly impressed by Perez's composure under serious pressure towards the end of the race in Monaco, when a tiny mistake could have sent him tumbling from first down to fourth, or worse, due to having a train of cars right behind him.
"You have to be at one with the car, because you've got to be able to predict it," he said.
"That's what he was definitely doing in the race, and he was able to manage it as well. So I think his overall race strategy, his personal race strategy, was superb, especially at the end, when you had [Carlos] Sainz on the harder tyre.
"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."
F1 Podcast: Was F1's cautious start to Monaco an insult to the drivers' abilities?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the Monaco Grand Prix, and reflect on whether decisions made by the Race Director were overly cautious.