F1’s amateur sleuths have concluded Sergio Perez’s Red Bull deal was finalised several days earlier than announced – thanks to a set of curtains.
Confirmation that the Mexican driver would be replacing Alex Albon with Red Bull for 2021 came on the afternoon of Friday December 18th, five days after the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
But while Perez posted a message on social media the following day thanking Red Bull kingpins Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko for the “great opportunity”, shrewd observers spotted evidence that the picture of the three of them together had been taken significantly earlier.
After nearly 12 years we will work together again, mate. Thank You Christian Horner for this great opportunity.
Helmut Marko, I’m very happy and thankful for the confidence placed in me, I’m going to work very hard to help this team to bring one more Championship #givesyouwings👐 pic.twitter.com/j2cJarBLon
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) December 19, 2020
The big giveaway was the curtains in the background, which were recognised as being from the W Hotel at the Yas Marina circuit where the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place – and thus suggested it had been ‘curtains’ for Albon at Red Bull sooner than the team had declared.
Also, Perez was wearing the same clothes as when he exchanged race helmets with his Racing Point successor, Sebastian Vettel, in another tweet which was posted on Monday December 14th.
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) December 14, 2020
In an interview with Motorsport-total.com, Marko refused to deny the photo of he, Horner and Perez had been taken in Abu Dhabi – but insisted it did not mean the contract had been signed there.
Marko was quizzed about the image being at odds with Horner’s claim that all parties involved had been informed of the Perez/Albon decision on the Friday when it was publicly announced.
“That is detective work that was done there,” laughed Marko. “A photo has nothing to do with signing a contract. It was a sociable get-together.
“At the time, nothing was 100% fixed and we took the photo in case it was fixed. Nowadays, electronic signatures are also possible. I am also wearing a thick jacket, so it could have been in the far north.”
Asked exactly when the photo was taken, Marko replied: “To be honest, I don’t remember exactly. It was a turbulent weekend. And the opportunities were there because we weren’t allowed to leave the hotel because of the corona regulations.”
Marko also made clear what is expected of Perez as he arrives as Max Verstappen’s team-mate at Red Bull in a departure from their usual policy of promoting younger drivers from their development programme.
“Perez has to be within striking distance of Max in race trim,” said the 77-year-old Austrian.
“In qualifying, we will see – nobody has made it to Max’s level up to now. That can be a maximum of two tenths. So in that region, maybe even less.
“As a team, we need a strength that we can fight Mercedes with two drivers. I assume we will be opponents of Mercedes again. If [Valtteri] Bottas is not having a pitch-black day like in Bahrain, he fulfils his role very well. We expect the same from Perez.”