Perez: One-year F1 deal doesn’t heap extra pressure on me

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The Mexican has had an up-and-down first season with Red Bull in 2021 as team-mate to world championship challenger Max Verstappen.

While his highlight was victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he has also endured his fair share of frustrations as he has had difficulties adapting to the unique handling characteristics of the RB16B.

Although he has been retained by Red Bull for 2022, it is clear that AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly is pushing hard for an opportunity to return to the main team at some point in the future.

For Perez, while the situation means he will need to perform at his best next year to stave off any chance of Gasly getting a second chance, he is clear that he has never let contractual matters impact the job he is doing on track.

“It doesn’t make any difference to me,” he told Autosport about having just a one-year deal.

“Even if we are on longer contracts, we are still racing drivers and want to deliver weekend after weekend.

“To be honest, it is not something I think about at all. The only thing I think about is the next race weekend. The same goes the other way around.

“I’m not thinking ‘oh, I have a contract for next year now, so I can be more relaxed’. No, not at all.

“If I would be thinking that way, I would never be here anyway.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Confirmation of Perez’s new contract came a few weeks after he had been told in private by team chiefs Helmut Marko and Christian Horner that he would be retained.

He says that, although there have been some difficult moments in 2021, the trust he has built up with senior management has been good.

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“A couple of races before that [contract announcement] Helmut and Christian spoke to me,” he said.

“They said that I shouldn’t be looking anywhere else, because they are happy with me and want to continue.

“For me it was the same really, so it was pretty clear. We have developed a good amount of trust during this short period of time, which is important.

“If Christian and Helmut tell me something, I fully believe them and as a result of that I wasn’t worried of anything else.”

With eight races still to go, and Perez needing to play a strong supporting role to Verstappen, he knows that the biggest gain he needs to make is with his single lap pace.

He has shown several times this year that he can be as strong as Verstappen on race day, but it is poor grid positions that lets him down in the results stake.

“I have to make a good step in the qualifying sessions,” he explained. “The race pace is there, but we have to do a good step in qualifying.

“The positive side is, if there is a delta to Max in qualifying, it tends to disappear in the race.

“We get a lot closer then, but I just have to close the gap on Saturdays as well, so I can be there from the beginning.”

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