A confirmation in this sense came in the final laps of the Sakhir race, when the Mercedes garage called Valtteri Bottas to the pits to mount a set of fresh tires with which to make his fastest lap, thus taking it away from Max Verstappen.
But it is not only the technical competitiveness of the RB16B that makes this start of the season different. After two years in which Red Bull has played only one ‘striker’, with Verstappen’s performance confirmed on a high level compared to that of Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon (teammates of Max in 2019 and 2020) now the team by Milton Keynes has returned to having a tandem of drivers able to guarantee the right contribution of points to aim for the Constructors’ title.
The decision to focus on Sergio Perez must be seen above all in this light, and the findings that emerged in the first stage of 2021, beyond the fifth place finish, confirmed that ‘Checo’ is very ready to make his contribution.
Perez… quasi come Max
“The speed that Perez showed in the race was confirmed on the same level as that of Verstappen – commented Helmut Marko – when he was not affected by traffic he lapped in the same times as Max, so I would say that as far as we have seen it was a good start. “
“Qualifying needs to be fine-tuned, Sergio lost a lot of time in the first corner in Bahrain, a point he didn’t digest as well as possible from the tests, but in the third sector he was faster than Max on average. together, but we are convinced that even on the fastest lap he will soon approach Verstappen’s overall performance ”.
If the technical performances of Mercedes and Red Bull are confirmed very close for the entire season, Mercedes will no longer be able to count on Lewis Hamilton alone to secure the Constructors’ title, but will need a Bottas equally useful to the cause, especially if the words by Helmut Marko will be confirmed on track.
In 2019 the Finn closed the season with 20% fewer points than Hamilton, a margin that last year became 35%, despite having one more race than Lewis, who was forced to desert the Sakhir Grand Prix for the positivity to Covi19.
Mercedes needs the best Bottas
For Bottas, the season that has just started could be an opportunity as well as an obstacle, in both cases capable of influencing his future. If, for the first time since 2014, Mercedes will have to sweat the Constructors ‘World Championship point by point (the most important ranking in the teams’ headquarters since it determines all the financial aspects), Bottas will be called to a more demanding task than in previous seasons.
At the end of the last championships, Mercedes was able to count on both World titles, and in this context, the percentage of points won by Bottas understandably ended up in the background: goals achieved, all promoted.
But if the confrontation with Red Bull is confirmed to be tighter, the priorities (and with them the pressure) will change not a little, and all with the presence of George Russell who hovers nearby.
The exploit achieved by the English driver last December in Sakhir has left its mark among many members of the team, and even if all have accepted the choices of the management, among the same upper floors there is the desire to see Russell again at the most. soon on one of Brackley’s cars.
Bottas is called to respond in the best possible way, as he did in Bahrain, that is to confirm himself also behind Lewis but not very far as has happened in the past and above all without ever giving Perez the opportunity to enter that margin. The stakes are high, and for Valtteri it is much better to dampen the desire to anticipate projects already finalized with a date of 2022.
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