Christian Horner says he “desperately needs” Sergio Perez to be at the front of the field, to limit Mercedes’ strategy options.
Lewis Hamilton stole a march on Max Verstappen as he dived into the pits to move an impromptu two-stop strategy in the Spanish Grand Prix, with Red Bull leaving their driver out in front on older rubber.
Hamilton was able to slot in behind team-mate Valtteri Bottas, overhaul the gap to Verstappen and pass him for the race win on Sunday, while Perez recovered from a poor qualifying in P8 – while reportedly nursing a shoulder issue – to come home a distant P5.
Had the Mexican been involved higher up the pack, however, Horner believes Mercedes would not have been as flexible with Hamilton’s change of strategy.
Direct comparisons have already been made with the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2019, where Hamilton also moved to an alternate strategy and chase the Dutchman down in the closing laps to pass him and take victory.
“I think it’s coming together for him,” said Horner, via RaceFans. “He had an off-day on Saturday.
“He was compromised in the race behind Daniel, obviously. But then he didn’t manage to make the headway at a track that’s so difficult to pass.
“Of course we desperately need him to be in that gap so that Mercedes don’t have the strategic options that they had today, but I’m convinced that will come for Checo as he finds more confidence and time in the car.”
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) May 9, 2021
“Unfortunately, like Hungary, they had a free stop behind them, so they had all the options,” Horner told Verstappen on team radio after the chequered flag had dropped.
After Perez’s issues behind other cars, there was too much of a gap to bridge for him to get back towards the top four in the field. While he passed an on-form Daniel Ricciardo with a bold move around the outside of Turn 1, it came too late for the Mexican to get back towards podium contention.
“The facts are that obviously Checo had been held up,” Horner added. “So the facts are very clear that obviously the two lead guys were so far ahead of the rest of the pack, as it were, and gave Lewis a free stop as he had in Hungary, he’s only got to get it past his team mate that was never going to be an issue.
“So that’s why we need both cars up there strategically so that option isn’t available to Mercedes.”