11 Sergio Perez
31-year-old Mexican Sergio Perez finally got his big chance at a top team in the 2021 Formula 1 season. He was given the chance to cover for Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing, something he succeeded in doing at a number of crucial moments. In 2022 he will get another chance to prove himself.
|Team||Red Bull Racing|
After success in the 2007 British Formula 3 Championship, Sergio Perez made an early switch to the GP2 series. The first season was difficult, but after his move from Arden to Barwa Addax (where he was teammate of Giedo van der Garde), the Mexican showed his true class. Checo missed out on the 2010 title, but his second place was enough to put him on Sauber’s radar.
Debut in Formula 1
Nick Heidfeld’s departure leaves a vacancy at Sauber in 2011 that Sergio Perez eventually takes advantage of. Prior to his move to Formula 1, Sergio Perez also received good news from Ferrari: the team from Maranello accepted the Mexican-born driver into the Ferrari Driver Academy.
During his first season in charge, Perez rarely scored any points, but still managed to earn Sauber’s trust. A good choice, as it would prove in 2012, when Sergio Perez can battle it out with Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari in Malaysia. In the Sauber car, Checo came extremely close to his first victory, but ultimately had to settle for P2. He then finished on the podium twice more that Formula One season.
Goodbye Ferrari, hello McLaren
Perez’s strong performance in 2012 left him with a dilemma: Stay with Sauber for another year as a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, hoping a place at Ferrari will open up, or cut ties with the Italian team and move to McLaren? Sergio Perez chose the latter option in 2013; one that will cost him dearly.
As Lewis Hamilton’s replacement, Perez had big shoes to fill. In an attempt to make up for the McLaren’s lack of speed, Sergio Perez drove very aggressively, but only finished 11th in the championship and was heavily criticised.
Sergio Perez Goodbye McLaren, hello Force India
The choice to swap a future at Ferrari for one at McLaren, appeared to have been the wrong one after just one year. Sergio Perez gets a new chance at Force India from 2014 (after Paul di Resta is sidelined there) and the Mexican finally seems to find his feet.
In his first season with the team, he is still in P6, a year later in P5 and in 2016 even a fourth place. He does this together with Nico Hülkenberg, but when the latter switches to Renault Sergio Perez will have to deal with Esteban Ocon in 2017. That partnership is less smooth, but does lead to another fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
Sergio Perez saves Force India from destruction
Sergio Perez finished on the podium five times in that period with Force India, before financial problems at team owner Vijay Mallya threatened the Mexican’s future. Perez himself rescued the ailing team and put it into administration to avoid bankruptcy. After this the team was taken over by Lawrence Stroll (father of Lance Stroll), allowing the season to be completed under the name Racing Point.
In 2019 Sergio Perez was joined by the son of the boss: Lance Stroll. The young Canadian proved no competition for the Mexican during the season, who consequently failed to get the most out of himself either. It is to the detriment of Racing Point’s growth that, despite a major investment, they are unable to make the next step.
In 2020 the team will do so. Racing Point copied Mercedes’ car for the most part and it became known as the ‘pink Mercedes’. Perez managed two podium finishes and even won the Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir.
Sergio Perez alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull Racing
The victory helped Christian Horner and Helmut Marko decide the fate of Alexander Albon. The British-Thai has been underperforming at Red Bull Racing, so Sergio Perez, who has to make way for Sebastian Vettel, finally gets the chance to prove himself at a top team.
He would have a tough act to follow, as Max Verstappen has proven in recent years that his teammates need to be exceptionally good to keep up with him. This also seems to be the case for Sergio Perez. The Mexican has struggled to get used to the Red Bull Racing car after a long spell with Force India.
Nevertheless, he has shown on several occasions that he has the speed and is an excellent team player, culminating in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. His fine defensive work against Lewis Hamilton’s attacks played a crucial role in Max Verstappen winning the world title.
Sergio Perez in 2022
Sergio Perez also scored his first win on behalf of Red Bull Racing in Baku, where he was on hand to do damage control for his teammate who had crashed out. Such highlights factored into the decision to offer him a contract extension, something that is more the exception than the rule at the Austrian stable. Perez will have another chance to prove himself as Max Verstappen’s teammate in the 2022 Formula 1 season.