Sergio Perez might just have booked a long-term contract at Red Bull

The Mexican (left) was ordered to concede his position to Max Verstappen in Barcelona
The Mexican (left) was ordered to concede his position to Max Verstappen in Barcelona

Sergio Perez was given team orders to let Max Verstappen by for the race win at the Spanish GP. In the aftermath, many had sympathy for the Mexican, while others solely had anger for Red Bull and Verstappen. There will only be a few, however, who will realize that what Perez did in Barcelona was book himself a long-term contract at Red Bull.

One would be wrong to think that the only reason why Perez might just have got himself that long-term Red Bull seat is due to the Spanish GP. The Mexican ensuring himself that seat at the Milton Keynes-based outfit has a lot more to do with his actions throughout the season so far.

The boxes Sergio Perez ticked before the Spanish GP

One of the biggest critiques against Sergio Perez in his debut season was his inability to consistently be a match for Max Verstappen. The Mexican often messed up his qualifying and would have a huge hill to climb even before he got on with the front runners.

Consequently, Verstappen would be exposed to a dual attack by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. Although there were instances like Baku where Perez picked up the pieces when the Dutchman retired from the race, he lacked consistency, which, in turn, boiled down to his inherent weakness in qualifying.

This season, however, Perez has turned things around. His qualifying results so far read:

RaceGrid Position
Saudi Arabia1st

The Mexican has improved his qualifying performance and has truly morphed into a supporting role for Verstappen. He's become everything that Red Bull wanted him to be. He's fast. He's very competitive. He has shown a level of consistency that the fellow number 2 driver in Ferrari, Carlos Sainz, has not, and most importantly, at times when Verstappen is not in the picture, Perez picks up the baton for the team.

Most noticeably, he was on his way to the podium in Bahrain when Verstappen retired before his own PU gave up. Even in Australia, he was the runner-up after his teammate suffered a DNF again. Sergio Perez has shown the ability to maximize points for Red Bull when Max Verstappen is unable to, and that is one of the biggest positives that Red Bull can look for in a driver.

The box he ticked after the Spanish GP

Speaking of Sergio Perez's qualities as a driver, arguments have been made that Red Bull academy driver Pierre Gasly has shown an arguably higher level of performance than the Mexican.

Gasly was more consistent, scored a podium in an AlphaTauri, and even out-qualified Perez on occasions. If we take an objective look at things then Gasly had a better overall performance level than the Mexican.

Apart from Gasly, Alex Albon from the Red Bull Academy has also shown tremendous potential in his stint at Williams. The 26-year-old is doing at Williams what George Russell used to do for the team last season — scoring some sneaky points finishes. Arguably, Albon has been one of the standout drivers this season as he has scored points twice in the slowest car on the grid.

Would either Gasly or Albon, two young drivers with dreams of achieving great things in the sport, however, have given up a win so that the team leader can maximize his points haul? The answer is no. It would have been very hard to affirmatively say that either Albon or Gasly would have let Max Verstappen by for the win.

This was the last box that Sergio Perez ticked at Barcelona. He showed that he will always put the team above himself and with that, he gained the confidence of the team that he would never overturn its orders. In turn, he became the perfect candidate for the second seat at Red Bull.

Why does this arrangement work for Sergio Perez?

One thing people don't understand about F1 careers in this context is that every driver comes to the sport all blue-eyed, expecting to be champion one day. Either he achieves all his dreams (which happens to very few of them), or he never gets the opportunity to achieve that as he never drives a championship-winning car (which happens to most). Or even when he gets the opportunity, he meets someone who is either his match or much better than him.

Sergio Perez belongs in that third category. He got his first opportunity in 2013 with McLaren but having Jenson Button as his teammate showed everyone how raw he was. His second opportunity came 8 years later when he was partnered with arguably one of the greatest talents in F1 history.

Perez knows he's not at Verstappen's level, especially after almost 30 races with him. He knows that a title challenge is fool's gold right now, even if he says something else to the media. The Mexican was almost out of F1 at the end of the 2020 season until Red Bull turned his career around. So even with slight disgruntlement, he will continue to do the job to further his F1 career.

At the Spanish GP, Sergio Perez just booked himself a long-term contract with Red Bull. Although as a supporting cast, his role is better than being out of F1 or driving a Williams at the back of the grid.

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