Lewis Hamilton believes Sergio Perez’s arrival at Red Bull will make the team a more formidable opponent for Mercedes during the 2021 Formula 1 season. 

Red Bull announced on Friday that it would be replacing Alex Albon with Perez for next year after the British-born Thai racer's difficult and disappointing first full-season at the team. 

Albon was comprehensively beaten by Max Verstappen and Red Bull hopes capturing the signature of the out of contract Perez, who became a grand prix winner at the Sakhir Grand Prix, will boost its chances of challenging Mercedes for world championships next year. 

Throughout much of the season, Verstappen found himself taking the fight to the Mercedes duo by himself, which in turn reduced the strategic options available to Red Bull with Albon further behind on track and not able to get in the mix. 

Hamilton, who himself experienced a similar situation when battling against both Ferraris for the world title in 2008 when he was teammates with Heikki Kovalainen at McLaren, reckons the move will strengthen Red Bull. 

“With all due respect to Alex in the races that we’ve had it’s been me and Valtteri against Max,” Hamilton said at the FIA’s prize giving ceremony. 

“I’ve been in the position that Max was in once, particularly when I was at McLaren where I was the lead car, and the second car wasn’t in the fight so when we’re fighting Ferrari, they could move around with the strategy and make it a lot harder for us.

“So I think naturally this makes Red Bull stronger – particularly the way Sergio is performing.” 

Perez enjoyed an outstanding 2020 campaign and finished the season fourth in the championship despite missing two races when he contracted coronavirus. 

Hamilton said he is delighted to see the Mexican get a drive he “truly deserved” after losing his Racing Point seat to Sebastian Vettel for 2021 and at one stage looking like he may be facing a year on the sidelines. 

“I think Sergio has driven incredibly well this year and truly deserved a drive, so I was so, so happy to hear that he’s been taken on by one of the top teams and given this opportunity,” Hamilton added. 

“I think it’s going to be an exciting battle to watch him up against and that’s going to make it much harder for us as a team. 

“So we’re going to have to really step up our game because that’s going to be a battle that we’ve not seen for some time, in terms of having the two drivers there fighting against us, but we relish it as a team. We love the challenge and it’s going to make it that much more exciting.”

 

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