Red Bull racing had both of their drivers on the podium in last Sunday's French Grand Prix. Max Verstappen took the top step and Sergio Perez came in at third place behind Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. The Mexican has been stellar this season, proving that the second Red Bull seat is not necessarily a bad place to be.

Fans and Formula 1 pundits have been saying over the years that the second Red Bull racing car is the place where careers die. While it is true that being Verstappen's teammate has exposed the weaknesses of several drivers in the past, Perez has proven that the second Red Bull is a good place to be as long as you are able to bring the results that team principal Christian Horner is looking for.

Daniel Ricciardo was the first casualty of the pressure, choosing to leave the team at the end of the 2018 season a few years after being joined by Verstappen at Red Bull. He recently said Horner was "obsessed" with Verstappen, referring to the team principal's treatment of the Dutchman. It has been no secret that Red Bull is on a mission to give Verstappen a world championship, and Ricciardo decided to move to Renault where he felt like the team would rally behind him. Now with McLaren, his best chances at a championship would still have been during his time at Red Bull.

After Ricciardo's exit, no one could forget the debacle between Pierre Gasly and the Red Bull team after the Frenchman was demoted back to Toro Rosso in the middle of the 2019 season to be replaced by Alex Albon. The Thai driver finished the season several places behind Verstappen in the championship, and was unable to match his teammate throughout the 2020 season either.

In came Sergio Perez, who was eased out of a drive at Racing Point/Aston Martin with the arrival of Sebastian Vettel. The Mexican has had an impressive drive in 2021 so far, taking the victory in Azerbaijan when his teammate unfortunately crashed out of the race due to a tyre failure.

His presence proved to be crucial for the championship battle, as Lewis Hamilton was forced into an error at the restart in the closing stages of the race while battling for the lead. The second Red Bull's presence alongside Hamilton put pressure on the Mercedes driver, causing him to make a rare error and to lose points that could have put him in the championship lead ahead of Verstappen. Perez then took the victory, giving Red Bull the points they needed to hold on to both the drivers and constructors championship leads.

Fast forward to France, and Mercedes team Principal Toto Wolff admitted that they lost out on strategy against Red Bull due largely to Perez being right there at the top of the order. He said that the second Red Bull made them less inclined to risk taking the second pit stop like their rivals.

"The fight between the three cars [Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas] was intense at the front and then you had to opt for continuing with the one-stop or the two," he said, as quoted by "Two-stop was a danger for us because Perez was in the way. We got it wrong today."

Christian Horner finally has two drivers he can count on, and F1 fans finally have the competitive season they have been waiting for.

Max Verstappen
Verstappen's Imola win confirmed Red Bull as serious title challengers AFP / Miguel MEDINA