Martin Brundle fears Sergio Perez could “crumble” if he allows his early struggles at Red Bull to get into his head.
Four races into the 2021 season and Perez has not been a significant upgrade on Alex Albon so far, yet to get close to finishing on the podium for his new team.
Inconsistency has been the Mexican’s main problem, especially in qualifying, and he has admitted it is taking him longer than anticipated to get used to the car.
Although the 31-year-old has two fifth-place finishes and a fourth in races to his name, they have fitted into the ‘never dangerous’ category, running some way behind the battle at the front that has invariably featured his team-mate, Max Verstappen.
But one of the main reasons why Perez was hired by Red Bull over the winter was his vast F1 experience, having raced in the series every year since 2011, and Brundle thinks he needs to call upon all of that knowhow to see him through this tricky period.
“It does appear the Red Bull is highly tuned to Verstappen’s preferences, driving style and formidable car control because Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and now Perez have all relatively floundered,” said Brundle in his post-Spanish Grand Prix column for Sky F1.
“Sergio’s head may be wiser and more experienced, but he’ll need to lean on every single element of that now to play his essential role and not crumble.”
Brundle also thinks the current situation is hindering Red Bull’s chances of keeping pace with Mercedes in the Constructors’ World Championship fight, with Valtteri Bottas proving a more effective second string to the bow than Perez at present.
“On 94 points and with three victories so far in 2021, this is Lewis Hamilton’s best ever start to a championship season, which is ominous for his rivals,” added the Sky F1 commentator and pundit.
“He’s on scintillating form and Red Bull urgently need more power and grip for Max, and for Perez to join the battle.
“Right now, it appears Bottas is more likely to take points from Verstappen on occasions than Perez is from Hamilton, and that could be critical.”
In Barcelona, Perez qualified eighth having been affected by a shoulder injury but worked his way up to finish fifth – although he crossed the line more than a minute behind race winner Hamilton.