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Lewis Hamilton: Red Bull set Sergio Perez challenge as Max Verstappen eyes Bahrain message

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Red Bull chief Christian Horner insists Sergio Perez immediately performing well for the team and allowing them to spring a greater tactical battle on Mercedes will be key to the Milton Keynes-based outfit’s chances of reigning supreme in 2021. Horner wants Max Verstappen and co. to be at their best from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to give Lewis Hamilton a season-long challenge at the front of the pack.

Red Bull have often been guilty of starting seasons slowly and allowing Mercedes, and particularly Hamilton, to build an uncatchable lead in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.

The Silver Arrows have had title-winning drivers and been the title-winning team in all of the past seven Formula One seasons with Hamilton winning six in that time.

But after swapping out Alex Albon for Perez, who impressed for Racing Point last year, Red Bull harbour ambitions of finally toppling their rivals and preventing Hamilton from winning a record-breaking eighth title to overtake Michael Schumacher.

Horner and co. are chasing their first titles since 2013 when Sebastian Vettel won his fourth successive Drivers’ Championship before leaving for Ferrari.

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And the team principal says pivotal to the team’s aspirations will be starting the season strong in Bahrain on March 28.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Horner said: “It’s certainly our target. We’ve also had a regulation change – a subtle regulation change but it’s still quite impactful.

“So the whole team has worked incredibly hard in difficult conditions obviously over the winter with the lockdown and so on.

“Hopefully we can come out of the box competitively, that’s been our Achilles heel in previous years, we haven’t turned up and been competitive from the get-go.

“Hopefully this year we can be competitive from the first race in Bahrain.”

Red Bull are hopeful that Perez will be an instant hit for the Austrian drinks company’s F1 team, Horner saying they need both him and Verstappen at their best to have a chance of topping the standings once again.

Horner added: “Sergio, he’s got so much experience, over 10 years in Formula One. I’ve known Sergio a long time, he’s always had this trait of being gentle on the tyres and very, very strong in race conditions.

Perez is hopeful that his wealth of experience will help him against 23-year-old future champion Verstappen, who is widely regarded as the second-fastest driver on the grid behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

“I think it is quite a big one [battle], to be honest,” he said. “You’re here [in F1] and when things don’t go well, pressure hits you hard.

“And when you are experienced and when you’ve been through it before, it just makes you focus on the right stuff.

“Technically you develop a lot of skills as well throughout your career, too.

“I just think I’m in a great point – the opportunity comes at a great point of my career and yep, it’s gonna work out well.”



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