F1: Lewis Hamilton extends Mercedes contract
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Former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde has explained the “big advantage” which will help Max Verstappen close the gap on Lewis Hamilton this season as the Dutchman plots to stop his British rival from securing an eighth world title.
Verstappen has never finished within 100 points of Hamilton but this season could be different.
The 23-year-old has been single-handedly trying to take the fight to Mercedes.
But he will be joined by a much stronger and established team-mate this time out in Sergio Perez.
The Mexican, who finished fourth in the standings last year, has made the move from Racing Point (now Aston Martin).
And Van der Garde reckons that could help swing some of the races in Red Bull’s favour.
“I am hopeful. Of course, they started testing the new floor early on, so they already have a lot of data on that anyway, ” Van der Garde told motorsport.com.
“They also say that they changed some things in the wind tunnel, so the correlation is better now.
“And Max has the big advantage this year that he is with Perez who is a good team-mate that can really help him.
“Not only strategically in the race, but also when it comes to valuable data.”
“I think they are in better shape than in recent years. I expect that Mercedes will still have an advantage, but it will be more exciting.”
Van de Garde knows the skills Perez can bring to Red Bull as the pair were team-mates for GP2 side Barwa Addax 11 years ago.
“I think he will be close to Max,” Van der Garde added. “Max is of course a winner and one of the best drivers on the grid.
“But Perez is not much inferior to him – some, but not much. I think there will be a gap between them now and then in qualifying.
“But Perez is especially good at the race. He is good at managing tires, strategically strong and always fast on Sundays.
“I think he can play an important role on those days. I do not rule out the possibility that he will sometimes be very close to Max in the races, but that is only a good thing, because that’s how you push a team to a higher level.
“In addition, Max can only learn and improve from strong mutual competition. He will no doubt see things with Perez that may be of interest to him. All in all, his arrival is a huge plus for the team.”
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