'Max as a teammate really pushes you to new levels' - Perez


Sergio Perez has been talking about his first year's experience racing for Red Bull alongside newly crowned world champion Max Verstappen, insisting that it's taken him to a whole new level as a driver.

At one point Perez looked like he would miss out on a spot on this year's grid altogether when Racing Point (now Aston Martin) let him go in favour of Sebastian Vettel.

But a late decision by Red Bull to hire him to replace Alex Albon and give Verstappen some much needed experienced support in 2021 meant that instead, he ended up in one of the most coveted race seats in the sport.

Although he finished well behind Verstappen in the final points standings, Perez took a race win at Azerbaijan and four further podium finishes. And his contribution to race strategy in Abu Dhabi saw him declared 'a legend' by his team mate.

"It's been extremely intensive," Perez told Motorsport.com when asked about his season. "A lot of work has been done behind the scenes, a lot of pressure.

"When you are at Red Bull Racing, the pressure is on and everyone is watching you, what you do," he continued, recalling criticism he received from the media early in the season when he was still struggling to make the transition to a new team and car.

"You guys are obviously a lot harder to a Red Bull driver, which is very understandable," he said. "When you are out of position and so on.

"I think the main thing I lacked was consistency, to constantly be at 100 per cent with the car," he said, acknowledging that improving on this this would be his priority in 2022.

Setting his sights on turning that around next season, Perez pledged: "I have to raise my game for next year, and yeah, hopefully we are all able to go forward."

While Verstappen won the drivers title, Red Bull came just short of topping the constructors standings, due to the combined efforts of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.

"It's a shame at the end [that] we didn't get the constructors', but I think it was just a couple of points at the end and some bad luck here and there. But I look forward to next year."

And the Mexican driver pointed out that he had already made huge progress since his move to Milton Keynes, thanks in large part to having to measure up to the force of nature that is Verstappen.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing at a team photograph. 09.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina

"It hasn't been easy but it has brought me onto another level. Having Max as a teammate, it really pushes you to new levels," Perez explained.

"He's really good. He's really at one with the car. He's very good in qualifying, he's really good at the races," he said. "He's very complete, experienced

"The season he has done I think it's been legend, you know? It's really impressive, and big praise to him. He's really at one with the car.

"Max has been a great team mate since day one to me, and the team has been fantastic to me," he said, adding that being able to play a significant part in Verstappen's maiden F1 championship meant a great deal to him, too.

"Honestly it does, [that] I was in a position to support my team mate," he insisted. "I'm extremely happy for everyone.

"I'm enjoying it a lot at this point of my career," he concluded when asked about the overall challenge of driving for Red Bull. "I'm very happy, and that's the most important [thing]."

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