Jolyon Palmer believes that, if Red Bull want to challenge for titles, they “must” replace Alex Albon with Sergio Perez.
After nine years on the grid, the Mexican driver finally became an F1 race winner in Bahrain with a stunning charge from the back of the grid.
It was the highlight of what has been an excellent season for Perez, and former F1 driver Palmer thinks that he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves.
“I’ve always thought Perez was an underrated driver in Formula 1, from watching him, then racing against him and now commentating on and analysing the races,” he said in his BBC column.
“He is underrated no more. Perez is now regarded as the established, fine F1 driver he is, and Sunday’s race was the perfect demonstration of his skills.
“His early laps after the safety car were a phenomenal display of clinical overtaking. Then he kept his tyres in good condition in typical Perez fashion, before controlling the race after the late safety car.
“Last to first – it was the absolute perfect drive. And it hasn’t come out of the blue, either. Since receiving Racing Point’s upgrades for the Eifel Grand Prix in October, Perez has had a win and a second place.
“He should also comfortably have had podiums in Bahrain, were it not for a late engine blow-up, and at Imola, were it not for a late safety car under which Racing Point erroneously pitted him.”
Perez is currently without a seat for next season and looks all but set to leave the grid for a year at the very least.
His last hope is Red Bull, and given how Alex Albon has struggled, many feel that the team should replace the Thai driver with Checo. Palmer is one of them.
“Performances like this should make him a dead cert for the Red Bull seat, but the team seem absolutely desperate to re-sign Alex Albon for next year,” he added.
“Traditionally ruthless with their driver choices, they have never come close to giving one of their drivers as much leeway or time to prove themselves as Albon has had.
“Red Bull know that whoever they sign as second driver will not match the pace of Verstappen, but what they need from that driver is to at least be able to deliver when others falter.
“Perez has been doing that for so many races now, and in a grand prix where the top four on the grid all had issues that ruled them out of contention, he was the driver who breezed through to win, passing Albon on the way, while Albon could muster only sixth in Red Bull’s only remaining car.
“If Red Bull want to be seen as a genuine championship contender next season, then they must switch from a second driver who has underperformed. Surely even the most blinkered of the Red Bull management can’t look past the latest F1 winner as the option moving forward.”