The race for the WDC may once again be contested between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, but the role of their respective teammates is still very much relevant.
According to Lawrence Barretto, team orders won’t be an issue at this stage. Even if it is Lewis versus Max, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez have much to do to ensure victory for their constructors. Baretto is of the opinion that team orders won’t be given this early in the season.
Speaking to F1 Nation Podcast, Baretto said, “They will leave it a little later before inflicting team orders. Mainly because you don’t want to get a down Bottas.
“He won’t be second or third, but seventh or eighth. You can’t afford that with Perez at Red Bull Racing. He did his job in Portugal. He is a clearer number two, but he must have accepted.”
A Bottas versus Perez matchup is also tantalizing. The Mexican is a step-up from the Gaslys and Albons of the world. He was leading in Portugal, and could have even won had a safety car emerged late in the race.
Tom Clarkson backed Perez to deliver great results, saying, “He had a brilliant drive in Bahrain. He came into the season, thinking I’m not going to get distracted by Max’s pace.
“Since Bahrain, however, he has been looking at Max’s data, and the competitor in him is getting slightly frustrated with it. He’d be better to take a step back though.
“He is a brilliant racer, who has already proven that he doesn’t need to beat Verstappen in qualifying to win in the race.”
Baretto, meanwhile, understands that Perez’s frustration with himself is down to his class mentality.
“He has seen what has gone before him with Pierre and Alex, and already feels he is doing better than those two. He’s been hard on himself, but that’s also because he thinks he can make that car work in a way that the other two couldn’t.”