Verstappen & Hamilton expect Perez impact on Red Bull-Mercedes battle

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Red Bull's signing of Sergio Perez will make the team a bigger threat to Mercedes next season, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen expect.

On Friday, it was confirmed the Mexican would replace Alex Albon for 2021, the first driver outside the Red Bull program to join since Mark Webber in 2007.

This followed an impressive year for Perez, who claimed his first Formula 1 win at the Sakhir Grand Prix en route to fourth in the Drivers' Championship despite missing two races with Covid-19.

And commenting on the decision to sign Checo, Red Bull boss Christian Horner admits his performances had become "impossible to ignore".

“He’s a very rounded driver now and I think he has an uncanny ability to over-deliver in machinery he has had available to him,” he added.

“If you look at the amount of podiums and success that he’s had over the years, I think he’ll be a good addition to the team. I think it shows again, our determination to field a competitive team against Mercedes next year.”

For Verstappen though, having a driver like Perez in the team only helps in his push to end Mercedes' dominance.

"It's more that we'll have a second car which is capable of being up there as well the whole race and trying to put a bit of pressure [on]," the Dutchman said.

"For example, like in Abu Dhabi, Alex was quite close. Most of the time, Mercedes try to go for an extra stop or whatever, and then I'm in more difficulties because most of the time when we were quite competitive this year, I was the only car trying to beat them, and tried to do something different.

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"I just hope that Checo will be the one to first of all push the whole team forward, but also keep me on my toes, which is always nice. To have a teammate pushing you, it's exciting," Verstappen added.

"Hopefully we can, with a bit more of a competitive car from the start, make it just a bit more interesting and difficult for them to make decisions."

Also commenting on Perez's arrival at Red Bull, Hamilton agreed it will make Mercedes' life a lot tougher.

"Yeah definitely," he told ESPN. "With all due respect to Alex, in the races that we've had it's been me, Valtteri [Bottas] against Max.

"I've been in the position where Max is, when I was at McLaren when I was the lead car and the second car wasn't in the fight. When we were fighting against Ferrari, they could play around with the strategy and make it a lot harder for us.

"Naturally, this makes Red Bull stronger, particularly with the way Sergio is performing," the seven-time champion noted.

"I think Sergio has driven incredibly well this year, and truly deserved a drive. I was so, so, so happy to hear he was taken on by one of the top teams and given this opportunity. I think it's going to be an exciting battle to watch him up against Max.

"That's going to make it much harder for us as a team, we're going to have to really step up our game because that's going to be a battle we haven't seen for some time, having the two drivers there fighting against us. But we relish that as a team, that's what we work towards, we love the challenge and it's going to make it that much more exciting."