Red Bull driver Sergio Perez looks forward to being faced with the “massive challenge” of fighting Verstappen, and says he hopes to “close the gap” to Mercedes.

Perez succeeds two others who have failed in the former challenge, with both AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon having lost their respective seats as a result of their competitive shortcomings relative to the remarkably quick Dutchman.

Though the Mexican enters the F1 team a far more experienced driver than those who preceded him had, Verstappen nonetheless presents a challenge as one of the most highly regarded talents on the grid, and the third-place finisher in 2020’s title fight.

Perez warns his challenge will be to ‘prove himself’ against the 23-year-old, who he describes as ‘complete’ and ‘one of the best’. The 31-years-old says Verstappen’s knowledge of the team and comfort with the car will make him an even greater difficulty.

“It’s going to be a challenge to prove myself,” said Perez. “We all know Max, how talented and fast he is, how much he has grown, how complete he is by now. He’s definitely one of the best, if not the best out there and in the current grid, so it’s a massive challenge.

“He’s been here a long time so he knows what he needs from the car. It’s a great challenge and I look forward to work with him and push together forward as a team.” Alongside Verstappen, Perez hopes to close the gap to 2020 champions Mercedes, who had the measure of the field – including Red Bull – for the majority of last year.

“We have to close the gap to Mercedes and hopefully be able to beat them — with both cars,” said Perez. “Hopefully [we can] give a better spectacle to Formula 1 itself as well. It just takes a little to change the picture. What I hear from engineers, they’ve been working really hard this winter.”

Talking about the start with Red Bull, Perez is still learning his way through. He is one of the few F1 drivers to have changed teams from 2020 to 2021, as the Mexican feels it will be interesting to see how develops the quickest.

“It’s very different in that it’s a new team,” said Perez. “There are so many things you have to learn and it just takes time. I will just get better and better knowing the team, them understanding what I mean. It just takes a bit of time, and putting all that work into it. I always spend time with my engineers, that’s the key.

“Trying to speed up the process, I’ve had a couple days on the sim already; I have a good idea of what the Red Bull car is like to drive. We are in that time where nothing comes easy, when you have to learn and work to get up to speed with the car.

“It’s getting there, and it’s gonna be very limited testing this year with only a day and a half with the car. It’s very little, but it is what it is. There are a lot of drivers changing teams and it will be nice to see who develops the fastest in their new teams,” summed up Perez.

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