Ross Brawn believes this year’s grands prix won’t be solely about Max Verstappen versus Lewis Hamilton with their team-mates also involved in the fight.
The 2021 Formula 1 got off to an epic start with Verstappen and Hamilton racing wheel-to-wheel for the Bahrain Grand Prix win.
Hamilton took the honours but was only 0.7s ahead of his Red Bull rival.
Bottas joined them on the podium, a distant third after a pit stop problem cost him some eight seconds, while he also lost time coming in for a third stop late in the race for fresh tyres to chase the fastest lap point.
As for Perez, the Mexican driver had an electrical issue on the formation lap but kept “presence of mind” to be able to restart the car and raced from the pit lane to P5.
It was a case of what could have been for the new Red Bull signing had he started 11th on the grid, or even qualified higher up.
But while Perez was voted ‘Driver of the Day’ by F1 fans for his charging drive, the main focus on Sunday was on Verstappen and Hamilton, Formula 1’s future taking on Formula 1’s present.
Brawn, though, reckons we won’t only be seeing the two of them tussling at the very front this season.
“It’s not just about Verstappen and Hamilton,” he wrote in his post-race column. “I left Bahrain feeling very optimistic.
“It was unfortunate that Sergio Perez’s car shut down on the formation lap, but once again he showed his supreme ability to cut through the field as he rescued a fifth-place finish.
“He’s not up to speed at Red Bull just yet, but he’s learning quickly – and we know what a fine driver he is. Once he’s settled, the Mexican has the potential to be part of the action at the front.
“The same can be said of his Mercedes counterpart Valtteri Bottas, who showed impressive pace throughout the race but was undone with a poor pit stop.
“It’s relatively close at the sharp end, compared to what we’ve had in previous years, and based on this race, it certainly doesn’t feel like it will be another year of Mercedes pulling away at the front.”