Former Aston Martin strategist talks about Pérez’s victory in Bahrain: ‘Then you really feel like you’re sinking into the ground’

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Former Aston Martin strategist talks about Pérez's victory in Bahrain: 'Then you really feel like you're sinking into the ground'

Former Aston Martin strategist Bernie Collins reflects on her time at Racing Point, and what it was like working with Sergio Pérez. The Northern Irishman was at the head of the strategy when the Mexican unexpectedly took the race victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020. Collins also provides a glimpse into Pérez’s motivations.

Collins headed the strategy of Racing Point, now Aston Martin, when Pérez achieved the team’s first, and only, victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020. The Northern Irishman therefore has some work experience with the current Red Bull driver, and knows what drives the Mexican. “He is very motivated,” says Collins, in The Fast and The Curious podcast. ‘He really wanted to achieve a lot (in Formula 1, ed.). They (drivers, ed.) all get motivation from beating their teammates and proving themselves. Checo also drove for Force India and Racing Point for a long time, just to prove that he was good enough to drive for a top team. All the drivers also have so much more self-confidence than the rest of us.’

The former Aston Matin strategist also looks back on the important race itself, and what it was like to stand at the pit wall at the time. “Bahrain 2020 was very special because Checo didn’t have a seat for next year, there was COVID and it was also a tough year for me at the end of my career as a strategist. It also felt like a tough year, but looking back we had a good result,” Collins remembers. ‘We started well on the grid (Pérez started in P5 during the Sakhir Grand Prix, ed.), and then he crashed in turn four. And then you really feel like you’re sinking into the ground.’

Crash Pérez actually came out well

Yet Pérez’s crash was not all bad news from a strategic point of view, the Northern Irishman admits. ‘We had to start on the soft tire according to the regulations, but the other tire was actually faster. From the moment he crashed, we had fifty seconds to decide if the car was okay and if we needed to make a pit stop. I then decided to do a pit stop, because I knew the other tire was faster.’

The pit stop ultimately led to Pérez being able to start an impressive catch-up race and eventually cross the finish line first. The Mexican’s victory not only meant a lot to himself, Pérez had immediately given a good audition for Red Bull Racing with his win, but also for Collins. ‘It was the only win we (Racing Point, ed.) had, and the only win I had as a strategist. It meant a lot to the team, and to Checo, who didn’t know yet if he would still be riding that year.’

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Former Aston Martin strategist talks about Pérez's victory in Bahrain: 'Then you really feel like you're sinking into the ground'
Pérez’s victory in Sakhir meant a lot for the Mexican and for Collins (Photo: Racing Point F1)

‘Pérez is so motivated to win’

Collins is now active as a journalist in Formula 1, and spoke with her former colleague Pérez about his position at Red Bull. The Northern Irishwoman remembers that she asked the Mexican in 2023: ‘If you focused more on coming second, would you actually come second more often?’, after Pérez had said several times that he would like to fight for the world title.

“He didn’t really seem to understand it, because I think he’s so motivated to win,” Collins remembers Pérez’s response. ‘Mexico last year was also a good example of this. He then went for the position on round one, and it didn’t work then.” During his home race in 2023, Pérez collided with Charles Leclerc in the first corner, meaning the Mexican was immediately out of the race. However, Collins understood why Pérez was trying to overtake: ‘He has to impress Red Bull and show that he wants to take the fight. It is sometimes difficult to find the balance for drivers.’

Although Collins does not think Pérez is a bad driver, ‘he is Max Verstappen’s longest-serving teammate for a reason’, the former strategist expects a lot from the McLaren driving duo in 2024. ‘Last year, Lando (Norris, ed.) had the upper hand during the races, but Piastri seems to have already taken a step this year. So these two will definitely be interesting to follow.”

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