Horner hoping Perez's experience helps him alongside Verstappen
Red Bull's Horner hopes Sergio Perez can contribute to the team's success in ways his predecessors couldn't, helping an improved Verstappen.
Perez is the third driver to join the F1 team since 2019, following Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon, both of whom decisively underperformed relative to Verstappen, the team's 23-year-old wunderkind who has been unmatched by any teammate since Daniel Ricciardo eclipsed him in 2017.
Though Ricciardo was a great asset to Red Bull, winning twice in the first half of his final season at the British team in 2018, neither Gasly nor Albon were able to reliably deliver performances on par with Verstappen, the former never seeing the podium while at the team and the latter failing to earn a victory in his stay.
Horner hopes that Perez, whose 2020 season was among the most impressive last year, can contribute to the team's pursuit of Mercedes next season on a greater scale than his predecessors did. "It'll be very difficult [for Sergio] to get himself up to speed in just one test, straightaway," Horner began when speaking to media like F1, Motorsport Network, Racefans.net and more.
"But he has the benefit of a lot of experience and, of course, we are expecting him to be close to Max and challenging - in a way that we had with Daniel Ricciardo and Max for three seasons. So, hopefully, Sergio can play a real, really important role for the team in getting both cars, on a consistent basis, near to the Mercedes," the Brit added.
Horner also says that Verstappen has improved considerably in his time at the team, acknowledging that his ability to extract remarkable pace from the various Red Bulls he has driven makes him a challenging opponent. "I think Max has done a great job," Horner said. "I think he's matured enormously over the last few years.
"And I think what he's extracted from the car in the last couple years has been truly impressive. In a car that hasn't been as good as the Mercedes and to have won five races in the last two years with Honda power as well, I think he's done a fantastic job. And we just as a team need to be able to do that on a more consistent basis over the course of a 23-race season," the 47-year-old said.
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]