Helmut Marko is not an easy man to please but Sergio Perez appears to have done it. The head of Red Bull's driver development program seems to be happy with how his drivers are performing. Earlier, Helmut Marko spoke about Yuki Tsunoda, when he praised the young Japanese driver and called him the next superstar in Formula 1. Now Helmut Marko has switched his focus to Red Bull's latest driver, Sergio Perez.
The Mexican had a decent start to life at Red Bull as he salvaged a good haul of points in P5 after starting the race from the pit lane. Perez had his moments in the race but was in a compromising position after he was knocked out in Q2 of qualifying on Saturday.
However, Helmut Marko spoke highly of Sergio Perez and praised the 31-year-old for his performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Mexican is a master at tire conservation, which allowed Red Bull to give him an optimal strategy for the race, allowing him to finish in P5.
What struck Helmut Marko the most was Perez's ability to put together lap after lap with utmost consistency. According to the Austrian, Sergio Perez showed pace comparable to Max Verstappen.
Speaking about the Mexican's race pace, Helmut Marko said:
"His race pace is at Verstappen’s level. When he had clear air, he delivered the same times. He lost most of the time in a corner, Turn 1. That was also the case in testing. But in Sector 3 he was on average faster than Max."
Sergio Perez needs to work on his qualifying: Helmut Marko
Despite the strung praise, Helmut Marko made it clear that Sergio Perez still had to improve his qualifying performances:
"The only thing he has to do is string the lap together and we’re convinced that he will be much closer to Max in qualifying."
Sergio Perez has never been a great qualifier, but he needs to work on his craft this season. This is his first real opportunity to consistently compete for race wins and maybe even the championship, and he must do his best to maximize his time at Red Bull.
The Mexican needs to ensure that he qualifies in the higher grid positions to pick up the pieces if Verstappen cannot win. He will also be crucial in preventing Mercedes from implementing alternate strategies, the way they did at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Mexican's race pace has never been a problem, and it is unlikely to be a point of concern in the future either. But if Sergio Perez wants to repay the faith bestowed upon him by Red Bull, he needs to be much closer to Max Verstappen in qualifying.