While Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo have been touted as the talents of 2014, Sergio Perez is earning his right to join this exclusive group. The Mexican has been re-born at Force India, with a string of excellent performances, which have even put Mr.Underrated Nico Hulkenberg in his shadow. Not bad for someone who was ejected out of the McLaren seat after just one season. The latest points scoring venture came in a race were the team employed an “outrageous” strategy, following unfortunate contact with Adrian Sutil, which Checo used to good effect. When life gave him lemons, Sergio made lemonade…
|“Sergio Pérez Bahrain 2014” by Habeed Hameed
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Force India’s Flutter
When Sergio met Adrian during the Singapore Grand Prix the results were far from brilliant. As the Mexican limped back to the pits with the remaining part of his front wing just a touch to close for company, it seemed as though all was lost and that this particular race would be filed under the “disappointments” divider. It took a pit-wall with a plan to bring Checo back into contention and he certainly seized what was an unexpected opportunity to snatch points – six in fact.
The gamble was to call him into the pits for a fourth time on lap 45, fitting a new set of supersofts. Sergio’s fate was then in his own hands. He had to make his way through the field, at a circuit which may not be as claustrophobic as Monaco, but certainly doesn’t lend itself to mass overtaking. His climb was of course helped by Kevin Magnussen’s equally late stop and Valtteri Bottas’ rubber struggles. Nonetheless, it was a rather radical strategy which Sergio maximised.
“The Safety Car brought it all back again, and credit to the engineering team, they took a courageous decision to bring him in,” Deputy Team Principal, Bob Fernley told Autosport earlier this week; “At the time it looked quite outrageous, but it obviously paid off. It was a gamble and it could have gone the other way.”
Certainly, if Checo had been completing a casual Sunday drive, the result would have been very different. However, he has not had many ordinary races of late. The Mexican has been somewhat of a revelation this season, proving to be far more competitive than in his lacklustre 2013 campaign at McLaren. Moreover, the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month demonstrated how his race craft has developed over the past 12 months. Heading through Lesmo one, side-by-side with Jenson Button in 2013, would have likely ended in contact and an embittered debrief to follow – In 2014, it is a thoroughly immersive battle between two drivers racing hard but fair.
While Italy showcased Perez’s defensive skills in the closing stages, Singapore showcased his attacking prowess. Finally, he is beginning to live up to his potential. It has been a remarkable turnaround, considering that just over two months ago, I was questioning Checo’s credentials. The erratic tendencies seem to have abated and as such, he is now claiming the edge over his teammate Hulkenberg. That is something which I certainly did not predict pre-season.
However, the classic sporting cliché comes to mind – form is temporary, class is permanent. Sergio unquestionably has the form and in order to confirm his position as one of Formula 1’s top drivers, he needs to prolong this period of excellence. For now though, Sergio Perez is ticking all of the boxes.