Ever since Daniel Ricciardo left for Renault, Red Bull have been on the hunt for a ‘number 2’ driver, someone capable of playing second fiddle to the prodigiously talented Max Verstappen.
However, the two candidates who filled that role in the last 2 years have grossly underperformed. Pierre Gasly only lasted half a season last year. After managing just 63 points from the first 12 races, he was demoted to Toro Rosso and was replaced by Alex Albon.
Clearly, Red Bull had seen something most others didn’t and decided to gamble on it. However, fast forward to 2020, with 4 races left in the season, people have started calling for his head.
Despite a few good races, Albon has been downright dismal in qualifying and looks an eternity behind Verstappen on the time, as well as point charts.
So, what can Red Bull do? Surely after his spin out at Imola, they’d be on the hunt for someone else right?
Thus, enter Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg into the frame.
The ex-Force India teammates currently find themselves without a drive for 2021. Rumors have long suggested that they are the frontrunners for the second Red Bull seat. But which one is a better fit? Let’s see.
The Mexican has for long been one of the most underrated drivers on the grid. The long time Force India/Racing Point man has made quite the career, hauling mid-field cars to podiums (on 8 occasions, to be precise). Based on that alone, you’d think he’d deserve higher honors.
Looking at his track record, Perez hasn’t really hit the ground running with new teams. However, in the following seasons, he has more often than not outshone his teammates, keeping pace with the big guns.
Perez’s only glamorous teammate has been Jenson Button at McLaren back in 2013. Considering that it was only his 3rd season n F1, being 24 points adrift of a world champion is not bad.
In terms of a teammate head to head, Perez has outscored his teammate in 7 out of 10 completed seasons.
Nico has a very similar career trajectory to that of Perez. They both have a similar amount of experience. But what goes against Hulkenberg is his lack of podiums.
However, the German has given quite a good indication of his talents this year. He has subbed in thrice for Racing Point and barring his DNS in the first Silverstone race, he has taken 10 points from two races.
His only superstar teammate has been Ricciardo. The German ended his only season beside the Australian in a rather respectable 17 points deficit.
Hulkenberg’s teammate head-to-head reads that he has outscored the other driver 5 out of 9 times.
What Red Bull need is a driver who will slip under the radar yet deliver consistently solid performance.
There is honestly not a whole lot to separate the two. However, conventional wisdom suggests that Perez should be Red Bull’s first choice option.
In Checo, they get a man who is a proven podium finisher, and someone capable of not only matching up but even outpacing his teammate. Moreover, the Mexican is already in the game and it shouldn’t take him too long to get used to the car. Unlike Nico, who has been out for a year.
Although that may not happen all too often alongside Max. With Perez, they get a man who will more often than not finish in the top 5, thus securing them good points but will not interfere with Verstappen’s race.
On the odd occasion, they’ll expect him to step up and put the pedal to the metal if need be, trying to push the Mercedes of Bottas.
However, Perez can certainly do a whole lot more than what the last two Red Bull ‘number 2’ drivers have done. That, in itself, should be a welcome relief for the Milton Keynes-based team.