Checo Pérez is a real bargain for Red Bull, who for years have been crushing the drivers he placed alongside Max Verstappen and has found in the Mexican the perfect complement to the Dutchman, the clear cornerstone of his project. No teammate could even come close to matching the performance of Verstappen, a voracious killer behind the wheel who was used to embarrassing his neighbors. However, Pérez can not only accompany him and shoot almost at his own pace both on Saturdays (with timekeeping) and on Sundays. The one from Jalisco is a luxury squire, a runner capable of taking charge when his leader is in trouble or giving him a cable when the current champion needs it. That was evident last year at that last apocalyptic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Pérez built a wall against Lewis Hamilton to get Verstappen to approach the Brit in what kicked off one of the most controversial World Cup finals ever. That Sunday, at a Montmeló circuit bursting at the seams (123,000 spectators), the Guadalajara native didn’t shake his pulse as he had to lead the offensive to lead the race, and he barely put in a but when they were heard on the radio asked him to pass on to your colleague. Red Bull’s one-two on the Circuit will no doubt benefit Checo when it comes time to sit down and talk about his renewal, a process that almost goes without saying when we consider what alternatives are out there.
Red Bull takes no prisoners, let alone as a pursuer. In a start to the season marked by Ferrari’s big moment, Scuderia left Barcelona with a shiver following Charles Leclerc’s retirement (lap 27) as the Monegasque left at the head of the peloton. Ferrari’s first mishap of the year was the finishing touch to a fateful day for the Maranello crew, who saw Carlos Sainz stuck at the start before going off the track shortly after. The Madrid man was fourth while Fernando Alonso was ninth.
No one disputes Verstappen’s role at Red Bull. That dynamic has been established at Red Buffalo Company since they recruited him and made him debut at Toro Rosso and with Sainz as a partner in 2015. Since then, the boy from Hasselt has been gaining popularity at full speed until he became the reference on the grill. Last year he took Hamilton’s pulse and ended up beating him; and this season he is already the leader. And all this with Sundays like the last one where he had to swim against the tide since Saturday due to problems with the movable rear wing (DRS). The waistline of the Red Bull strategists who called him into the garage to overtake Russell there (lap 29) and Pérez’s obedience when they asked him to let him pass – “It seems unfair to me, but I will do it,” he said – they gave Verstappen his fourth win in six races and also a place at the top of the points table. Russell’s third position, who has been very solvent all weekend, and Hamilton’s comeback – going from last place to fifth – lead to the intuition that Mercedes is beginning to offer a version more akin to what’s to come from the Arrows silver will be minimally similar.
“I’m happy for the team, but we’ll have to talk later,” Pérez said on the radio as soon as he crossed the finish line. “He’s a fantastic teammate thanks to Checo,” praised the winner of a test that historically has never been among the funniest on the calendar, but this time led to delirium in anyone brave enough to approach Montmeló under a sun falling in the course of the day.
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