Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, says that he believes the two can go toe-to-toe for the 2022 title.
“He’s in this championship just as much as Max is,” Horner said of Perez. “The difference between the two of them, it’s nothing. Him and Max have been a lot closer this year.”
But one race doesn’t make a season, and Perez still has to prove whether he can keep up with Verstappen and Leclerc for the rest of the year, in a season where they have largely got the better of him.
After inheriting the win last year and finishing on the podium in 2017, Perez has strong form. With the momentum currently going Red Bull’s way, it would not be a surprise to see Perez fight for victory or stay within a race win of the championship lead.
Red Bull would be much further ahead in the championship if it wasn’t for a number of reliability problems this season, most recently with the DRS flap.
Sometimes – as witnessed in Barcelona – it will not open but the team is cautiously optimistic is has found a permanent solution and believes this weekend will prove to be the definitive test.
Paul Monaghan, Red Bull’s chief engineer, said: “Our DRS problem was self-inflicted, I think if we are honest, so now we’ve learned our rather painful lessons.
“There is a sigh of relief after the work that some very clever people did, the research and the checks. I’m confident, much happier based upon what we learned coming out of Spain.
“Baku presents slightly different problems. Your opening speed is 160km/h (in Monaco), in Baku is is 300km/h. So, it’s not really about weight on the flap, it is lifting it up against its own aero load. I think it would be foolish to rest on our laurels.”
With DRS on the very long start-finish straight, it will be pivotal for Verstappen to have it working in Baku and if it does, that may prove to be the end of this particular struggle for Red Bull.
The pressure is on Mick Schumacher, is his future under threat?
The season has brought contrasting fortunes for the driver duo in the Haas garage.
Kevin Magnussen has impressed on his return to Formula 1 and scored valuable points for the team but Mick Schumacher is yet to get off the mark.
Not only that, but the ex-Formula 2 champion has crashed heavily twice this season – at Saudi Arabia and Monaco – denting Haas’s budget.
There have been occasions where he has looked good for points but in Miami he collided into Sebastian Vettel and threw that chance away, while after reaching Q3 in Barcelona, he just did not have the race pace to stay inside the top 10.