Sam Bird believes Sergio Perez has “absolutely” done the job Red Bull asked of him, but Jack Nicholls questions if he’s been any better than Alex Albon or Pierre Gasly were.
It seems the answer to that is determined by the length of their careers.
Perez is Max Verstappen’s third team-mate since Daniel Ricciardo departed Red Bull after the 2018 season, replaced by Gasly who in turn was replaced by Albon.
Neither youngster stayed too long, Gasly’s time with the senior team limited to 12 races while Albon at least stuck around for a year and a half.
Both found their time in one of the Adrian Newey-designed RBs cut short as they weren’t able to get anywhere close to Verstappen, falling short on the job requirements.
It was a different story, though, when Perez stepped into the RB16B last season as his job wasn’t to take the fight to Verstappen, it was to support him.
In that, Bird says, he’s done the job.
“He’s done what he needed to, he’s done the required job,” the Briton said on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.
“He’s been a good back-up to Max Verstappen, and that’s kind of what Red Bull need. We know that Max Verstappen is the leader in the team, that’s not going to change.
“So did he fulfil his role? Yes, yes, absolutely.”
However, BBC F1 commentator Nicholls questions whether Perez brings anything to the party that Albon or Gasly couldn’t do, saying he has been “pretty torn” on the Mexican racer this year.
“My question is,” he said, “has Perez been better than an Albon or a Gasly this year?
“At times yes. At times, not really noticeably but there have been times where he has been better.
“But I don’t think he’s been a complete revelation. I don’t think you’ll seeing much difference if you have Albon in that second car, is Albon finishing third in the championship? I think so.”
Bird, however, points out that the reason Perez is doing the job whereas Gasly and Albon didn’t, is because the Mexican driver was never signed to compete against Verstappen, he was brought in to support him.
“When Albon and Gasly were there, there were always the question marks,” he explained.
“Now there don’t seem to be any question marks around Sergio Perez and his role at Red Bull. Everybody’s just comfortable in the fact that he is 2-3-4-tenths slower than Max Verstappen and that’s fine.
“Whereas when Gasly and Albon, who were earlier in their careers, they were questioned. I think that Perez is 10-12 years into his Formula One career so it’s fine, that’s his level, he’s here to do a job.
“And on his day, he can produce a great race and maybe pick up a win when something falls his way, which is just what they need. So I think he is the perfect number two for for Max Verstappen.
“I mean, who else would you have there in that seat? Would you prefer them to have two number ones?”
Nicholls reiterated his thoughts that Perez hasn’t been a step up from his two predecessors.
“I’m not saying necessarily there’s a better option than Perez,” he said, “and I’m not meaning to to fully criticise Perez but I sometimes I wonder how much of an upgrade he really has been over Albon and Gasly.”
Bird, though, insisted that Perez has done the job Red Bull needed him to do.
“He’s done the role perfectly this year,” he said. “He’s fulfilled his role and he’s come in the top three in the World Championship.
“He’s helped Red Bull win the Constructors’, and he’s booked himself a couple of wins – probably the two two of the biggest wins of the season and have gone his way. To win Singapore and Monaco in a single year is is pretty cool.”