Why Perez Deserves Another Shot At The Big Time
Second chances are few and far between in F1. It is one of the most competitive environments in world sport, and with 1000’s of hungry young chargers vying for their shot at the big time, opportunities are few and far between, particularly when it comes to the sport’s premium seats. For Sergio Perez, his chance to shine came in 2013, when McLaren paired him with 2009 champion Jenson Button, following a breakthrough 2012 campaign where the 21 year-old Mexican claimed three podiums for Sauber. Ultimately, Perez fluffed his lines during his spell at Woking but so did his team.
Here’s why Sergio Perez deserves another shot with one of F1’s most illustrious squads.
In truth, it is fair to suggest that should Checo earn another seat in one of the sport’s most highly rated outfits, it would be only his first real opportunity to notch consecutive podiums and career victories. His chance at McLaren came at a time in which MTC was heading into a period of decline. 2013 was their last season with title sponsor Vodafone and the MP4-28 was notoriously unpredictable under braking, leaving Perez with a difficult car to become acclimatized to.
Placed within the McLaren pressure-cooker and forced to contend with a far from ideal package, even the most experienced names would struggle. In reality, Perez’s 2013 statistics were far from dire. He managed to claim 49 points over the course of the campaign and while this total is dwarfed by Button’s 73, the Briton had the advantage of and extra decade of experience to guide him through what was a difficult term for the team.
The difficult nature of the 2013 season for McLaren is a critical aspect of the argument. Heading back to the points records, it is notable that Sauber, guided by Perez and teammate Kamui Kobayashi, scored 126 points in 2012 – Four points more than McLaren managed in the following year.
Two teams, two years, so why compare? Ultimately, the numbers illustrate the argument that despite their higher profile and glittering history, Perez’s career move to McLaren was hardly a launch pad into one of the sport’s most competitive seats. Certainly, it was billed as such, and rightly so following the rapid MP4-27, which barring unreliability would have surely taken Lewis Hamilton to a second world championship, but its successor was no match for the RB9, W04 and E21 which were the class of the field.
Hence, I would suggest that my own title for this article is in fact misleading. Not so much a second chance – rather a first shot at the sharp end for Sergio Perez. The Mexican’s 2015 campaign has certainly placed him into the shop window once again, with his sublime drive in Russia yielding his second podium for Force India.
The difficulty which Checo will inevitably face in the coming years is a challenge which has similarly foiled the likes of Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg in recent seasons. All have demonstrated the traits required to succeed in a marquee seat, but the front-running stalwarts such as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and others hold the box seats and show no desire to bow out of the sport anytime soon.
One seat at Ferrari is potentially up for grabs in the near future, should Kimi Raikkonen retire at the end of next year, but there is an extortionately expansive list of candidates, of which Sergio Perez is one of a number. Fortunately, Force India are currently riding the crest of a wave, upon which both Perez and Hulkenberg have an opportunity to scrap for podium placings. They can achieve some success with the Silverstone based outfit, which is just as well, given the stability at Mercedes and Ferrari.
So many drivers, so few championship challenging seats available.
Three car teams anyone?
Image Credit: "USGP_2015" By Joe McGowan (via Flickr) [CC-BY-NC-2.0]