Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes will have to “really step up our game” after Red Bull signed Sergio Perez to partner Max Verstappen.
Perez has been brought in for 2021 at the expense of Alex Albon thanks to a string of consistently competitive performances for Racing Point, culminating in second place in Turkey and his first F1 victory at the 190th attempt in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
With Albon having been largely unable to back up Verstappen in taking the fight to Mercedes in 2020, Red Bull hope Perez, who was pushed out of Racing Point to make way for Sebastian Vettel, will give them a double-pronged challenge at the front.
Hamilton is well aware of what that could mean for Mercedes, who coasted to their seventh consecutive constructors’ World Championship as the British driver took his own number of individual titles to the same mark.
— Aston Martin Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) December 18, 2020
“Naturally, this makes Red Bull stronger, particularly with the way Sergio is performing,” said Hamilton, quoted by ESPN.
“I think Sergio has driven incredibly well this year and truly deserved a drive. I was so, so, so happy to hear he was taken on by one of the top teams and given this opportunity. I think it will be an exciting battle to watch him up against Max.
“That will make it much harder for us as a team. We will have to really step up our game because it’s going to be a battle we haven’t seen for some time, having the two drivers there fighting against us.
“But we relish that as a team. That’s what we work towards, we love the challenge and it will make it that much more exciting.”
Hamilton likened this year’s situation at Red Bull to his time with McLaren when, without actually naming the driver, you got the distinct impression he was referring to Heikki Kovalainen.
“With all due respect to Alex, in the races we’ve had it’s been me and Valtteri [Bottas] against Max,” said the seven-time World Champion.
“I’ve been in the position where Max is, when I was at McLaren where I was the lead car and the second car wasn’t in the fight.
“When we were fighting against Ferrari, they could play around with the strategy and make it a lot harder for us.”