Mika Hakkinen believes the role of Sergio Perez in Max Verstappen’s Azerbaijan victory should not be underplayed.
The Finn thinks Perez’s acceptance of the Red Bull team’s strategy, combined with a longer pit-stop, enabled his team-mate to extend his advantage.
Perez suffered an uncharacteristic five-second stop in Red Bull’s pit box when he came in after his team-mate had already taken the lead in Baku, suffering from tyre degradation not usually associated with the Mexican.
Perez had taken the lead of the race himself at the start, jumping ahead of Charles Leclerc at Turn 1, but Verstappen passed him and ultimately went on to take a comfortable win.
Hakkinen, the two-time former World Champion, feels Perez’s form is showing how vital he is at Red Bull, and how his longer stop ended up inadvertently gifting Verstappen an extension of his lead at the front which he ultimately did not relinquish.
🔢 Drivers' standings after Australia:
Leclerc: 71 points
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“Checo is doing a really fantastic job of supporting Max at Red Bull,” Hakkinen wrote in his blog for Unibet. “After his win in Monaco he came to Baku and was quickest in two of the practice sessions, and ahead of Max in all of them.
“To then qualify second behind Charles and take the lead at the start shows just how much confidence Checo has in himself and the car.
“Max has Checo to thank for the win, in my opinion, not only in accepting the team’s strategy but also in having a five-second pit-stop at a key moment in the race.
“Red Bull really does have the benefit of two strong winners in their team, while Ferrari are suffering with Carlos Sainz having a lot of poor luck as well as being unable to match the pace of Charles.”
Ferrari’s double retirement was a significant blow to their chances in both championships, dropping 80 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ standings after they had taken full advantage with a one-two finish.
And where Ferrari have struggled this year, the Finn says Red Bull have shown quite the opposite in recent races.
“The one thing everyone knows in F1 is that to win the championship you need that combination of speed, reliability and consistency which is so hard to find,” Hakkinen said.
“Ferrari have the speed but the other aspects are not there, while Red Bull are showing exceptionally strong form everywhere.
“Red Bull had some issues with reliability at the start of the season but they have now put that behind them. Ferrari need to do the same, and quickly.”