Red Bull “desperately” needs Sergio Perez to fight at the front to prevent Mercedes being able to use different strategies after Lewis Hamilton’s Spanish Grand Prix victory.
Perez had a poor result in qualifying – attributed to a shoulder issue – that left him eighth on the grid after a spin in Q3. On a track where overtaking is particularly difficult, the Mexican could only recover to fifth and was never in touch with the front three, allowing Mercedes to give Hamilton a second stop into clear air and close down a 23-second deficit to beat Max Verstappen in the final stages.
“I think it’s coming together for him,” Horner said of Perez. “He had an off day (on Saturday). He was compromised in the race behind Daniel [Ricciardo]. Obviously that, then he didn’t manage to make the headway at a track (that) was so difficult to pass, because we desperately need him to be in that gap so the Mercedes don’t have the strategic options that they had.
“So, I’m convinced that that will come for Checo as he finds more more confidence, and time in the car.”
Horner likened Sunday’s race to Hungary in 2019, where Pierre Gasly was stuck in traffic and Hamilton pulled a similar strategy in what proved to be Gasly’s last race for the team.
“The facts are that obviously Checo had been held up,” Horner added. “So the facts are very clear that obviously the two lead guys were so far ahead of the rest of the pack as it were, that Lewis had a free stop as he had in Hungary.
“You know he’s only got to get past his teammate and that was never going to be an issue. That’s why we need both cars up there strategically, so that option isn’t available to Mercedes.”
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) May 10, 2021
Despite the frustrations with the final result, Horner is encouraged by Red Bull’s car performance at a track where Mercedes has dominated for a number of years, and doesn’t think an early second stop for Verstappen to fit soft tires would have given him a chance of victory.
“That’d be a hell of a bold decision to pit from the lead on that 42 when all the predictions are that the tires should, and they would have got to the end of the race,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been perhaps the fastest way to the end of the race, but track position’s crucial here. And having been able to maintain track position to Lewis until that point… and also remember they have a set of mediums, available to them, we had a set of softs. That wouldn’t have had the range that those mediums would have had.
“So I think the reality is, whatever we would have done they just had a faster car with slightly less deg than us, so we’ve got to take the positives out the weekend that we’ve managed to push Mercedes this close at this circuit, and you know the track where they were a long way ahead of us last year and one that has been a strong point for them. We’ve got to take the positives out into the next race in Monaco.”