Perez was sent out ahead of Verstappen in Q2 and Q3 to provide the championship leader with a tow, and his aid ultimately proved crucial to the Dutchman securing third behind the two Mercedes drivers.

Verstappen ended up four-tenths off the pace of Valtteri Bottas as Red Bull struggled to match its main rival at Monza but he was able to narrowly pip the McLaren duo Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo by just 0.023s.

Having effectively sacrificed his own result, Perez finished six tenths down on Verstappen and will line-up for Saturday’s sprint race from ninth on the grid.

"I have to say, Checo played a key role as a team player today to give his team-mate a tow and help Max get into that position, because I think we were vulnerable to the McLarens,” Horner told Sky Sports.

"Max up there in P3, Checo probably sacrificed half a second. So, he should have been higher than where he is, but we were pretty happy with that result.

"To be honest, I think based on what the deficit was last year, we pretty much halved that gap.”

Horner admitted Perez almost failed to progress to Q3 altogether due to the assistance he was giving Verstappen in Q2.

“He was tumbling down the order,” Horner added. “So it was a little bit nip and tuck in Q2, but thankfully he’d just done enough.”

Perez said he hopes Red Bull’s set-up choice will play dividends and “pay us back” on Sunday.

“We were struggling there, we're really low on downforce,” The Mexican explained.

"Just trying to optimise the Sunday, so hopefully that can pay us back and then tomorrow in the sprint race, hopefully we can make up some positions and come through the field. The long run looks promising.

"The sprint will be quite hard, because it will be a DRS train very early on, but it's a long race and a lot of things can happen tomorrow."