Max Verstappen hopes the arrival of Sergio Perez means they can challenge Mercedes, whose Lewis Hamilton says are behind.

Having had some difficulties in challenging Mercedes with youngsters like Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon, Verstappen feels confident about the 2021 F1 season with the arrival of Perez. It is all optimism at this stage for the Dutchman ahead of season start.

“I know Checo now for many years here in the paddock,” said Verstappen in the Bahrain GP press conference. “And now that we are teammates, you get a bit more of an insight how Checo is working. And I think everything so far is running very smooth. The feedback, we both are heading into the same direction, I hope it’s the right direction.

“It’s all going very smooth and it’s nice also to get a bit more of an insight from his side, from his past experiences in other teams. That’s always very good. I just hope that as a team now we can really score a good amount of points and really put the pressure to Mercedes every single race weekend.”

For Perez, he can sense immediate change in attitude, moving from Racing Point to Red Bull. While the former is still getting into terms to fight for its first title, the latter has recent experience of doing so and wishes to topple Mercedes.

“The team is full of racers,” said Perez. “Everyone is just a racer in the team. It is a very good atmosphere. It’s all about winning, you know: the mentality, and the focus, it’s very different. Straight away you can notice that. They do everything to the limit, whether it’s pitstops, whether it’s a meeting, or whether it’s related to performance.

“They just go flat out and that’s something very impressive. Of course there are areas that I was not used to, areas that I see that they can be improved as well. So it’s all about growing together, and having an impact into the team as well,” summed up Perez.

While Red Bull drivers hope for to topple Mercedes, Hamilton – as usual – is not putting them down, especially with the arrival of an experienced Perez. “I think it’s definitely going to be the hardest battle we’ve had so far,” he said. “At the moment they are ahead.

“But we’re down for the fight. I think each year is a little bit of an unknown but of course more often we have a better feeling of what’s happening with our car it’s massively exciting for us as a team. We are currently not the fastest.

“And how we’re going to work together, how we’re going to unite in order to get where we want to be. I’m so excited of that challenge. And seeing some of the other teams close. I think it’s going to be great for fans,” summed up Hamilton.

Here’s Christian Horner and Toto Wolff on their battle

Here’s Sergio Perez on his debut with Red Bull

Here’s Max Verstappen and Helmut Marko on pre-season test

Here’s Valtteri Bottas on quit thoughts after 2018 Russian GP

Here’s Mercedes on rear end issues and more

Here’s Red Bull not wanting a favourites tag

Here’s James Allison crediting Mercedes HPP and addressing the ‘bulge’