Interview with Martin Brundle & Damon Hill: Can Perez give Verstappen a run for his money?
"He’s battle-hardened isn’t he and I think that he’s pretty bulletproof from that point of view."
2021 is set to be a season full of new possibilities, with new teams, new drivers, and new circuits – so surely we’re bound to see some new battles on track?
Over the last number of seasons, we’ve seen Max Verstappen excel well ahead of his Red Bull teammates, leaving them fairly well in the dust.
This year, however, the 23-year-old has an undoubtedly experienced driver in the second RB16B, and so, may have to fight a lot harder to remain number 1.
We spoke with Martin Brundle and Damon Hill about the potential on-track battle between the charging bulls this season.
Both seemed to agree that Sergio “won’t squirrel away” from the challenge that is being Max Verstappen’s teammate.
Speaking to Straight to the Grid’s Sophie Collins, Martin Brundle said:
“I think that Sergio is laid back enough, he’s not going to get caught up and feel under pressure.
“He’s been there, seen it, done it, and then finally won it, didn’t he, last year.
“He’s very mature, and I’m not saying the other guys were immature, but they were the new kids on the block under pressure, trying to learn their trade with an incredibly bright spotlight on Max.
“And that proved to be an impossible hurdle to clear for some of them – many of them actually.
“What Sergio won’t do is squirrel away. And that’s the most important thing for Red Bull.”
Damon Hill added: “I agree with Martin on Sergio, he’s battle-hardened isn’t he and I think that he’s pretty bulletproof from that point of view.
“I think the pressure from some quarters in that team is tough on young guys, and you only have to have a small fishier and you go spiraling downward.
“I don’t see that happening with Sergio. I think it’s because he knows that every day he wakes up, he seems to be thinking positive and he’s ahead of the game and the glass is half full, if not full completely.
“I loved watching Sergio in Mexico when he dealt with the pressure of being the man in that environment.
“He just lapped it up and he gave everything that they wanted.
“So the Mexican Grand Prix has got to be a must, isn’t it, this year.”
Speaking about a chance run-in with the 31-year-old last season, Martin said his “low-stress attitude” will stand to him as he enters the 2021 season.
“I remember talking to him last year in Bahrain at the first race and then full track,” he said.
“And we were looking at his tires and he came out and was looking at his tires as well. And we got talking.
“He’s probably the most, I find the most approachable driver in the paddock.
“And I said, wow, that track next week looks quite a challenge – the sort of more circular one the outer perimeter track, and he was like ‘uh, I hadn’t really looked at it yet. I don’t know. I don’t know. Yeah. Maybe if you tell me’.
“Anyway, he went on to win that race and on the second track in Bahrain, because you know, he just aced it and what he clearly was doing was wasting nil energy or mental thought process or heartbeat’s on the race the following weekend, he just focussed on the first race.
“I think that kind of attitude, that kind of low-stress attitude will serve him very well.”
As for how Perez will fare throughout the weekend, Brundle said; “I think Sergio is the man for the end of Sunday, not the end of Saturday.
“I don’t think he’ll need to qualify or even be that, you know, incredibly close to Max, because what Red Bull needs is for him to be on the second row of the grid at worst, and then five, no more than five seconds behind Max.
“So they need the ammunition for the strategy, and that’s what Serge is going to do.
“And then I think there’ll be days when Sergio uses his experience, keeps tires intact, and will actually be the fastest man at the end of the race from time to time.
“So that’s the job I think he’ll do.”
Racing begins this weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit with the first ‘lights out’ of 2021 at 16:00 Irish time on March 28.