2016 F1 season driver rankings #8: Perez

2016 F1 season review

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Sergio Perez’s F1 career continued its post-McLaren recovery in his third season at Force India as he made two appearances on the podium.

Sergio Perez

Beat team mate in qualifying 9/21
Beat team mate in race 9/16
Races finished 21/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate 561/1041
Points 101

Pin-sharp strategy served him well in Monaco as he made an early switch to slick tyres to sustain his advantage at the sharp end of the field.

Force India enjoyed their strongest weekend in Baku and Perez delivered another third place but a better result was available. A crash during practice led to a gearbox change which meant he started seventh instead of second. However he still had the beating of team mate Nico Hulkenberg.

This was true more often than not in races, though Hulkenberg enjoyed a greater margin of superiority in qualifying. This remains an occasional weakness for Perez – Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor knocked him out in Bahrain – but he has clearly raised his game compared to previous seasons.

It was nip-and-tuck between the pair all season but they avoided any costly run-ins – even when they scrapped furiously for position at the start of the season finale.

Force India was not ordinarily capable of holding onto places among the front runners. Perez proved a good judge of when not to waste time trying to beat quicker cars, as in Malaysia and Japan where he ran third early on but kept his eye on the bigger-picture goal of keeping the Williams pair behind.

As usual Perez could be relied upon to stretch his stints when needed giving him a useful strategic edge. He used this to good effect in Spain, beating Massa, and salvaged a result in Singapore with two long stints as well. But this wouldn’t have been necessary had it not been for an eight-place grid penalty due to a careless yellow flag infringement.

Mistakes like this, however, have become the exception rather than the rule for Perez. When the chequered flag fell in Abu Dhabi he’d taken his tenth consecutive points score and done his bit to secure Force India’s best-ever championship finishing position.

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Over to you

Perez is an interesting case. I feel he’s a bit too good for a midfield team like Force India, but I’m not sure if he’s good enough to challenge for championships.

Scored two impressive podiums and helped Force India to reach their best-ever season, so there’s not much more he could have done.

What’s your verdict on Sergio Perez’s 2016 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

Add your views on the other drivers here:

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View race-by-race notes on Sergio Perez

Australia – Started one place ahead of his team mate but fell behind Alonso immediately and had to follow the McLaren for the first stint. “Being stuck in the dirty air destroyed my tyres,” he said. It was a case of deja vu at the restart when Button got in front of him, and towards the end he had to manage high brake wear and dropped out of the points.

Bahrain – Said he was “unlucky” to drop out in Q3 after being eliminated by an improvement by Wehrlein. He made a terrific start, gaining six places, then threw it away with a careless move on Sainz on lap two. “I was in his tow and when I went onto the marbles on the inside I just couldn’t stop the car enough,” he admitted.

China – Overnight changes on Friday produced a better-handling car for Perez and he pronounced himself happy after taking seventh on the grid. That became fourth after lap one and he was still ninth after the Safety Car, but he lacked the pace to get back where he had been and lost so much ground he ended up out of the points in another disappointing weekend for Force India.

Russia – Another driver who tends to go well at Sochi, a solid qualifying performance from Perez plus Vettel’s misfortune yielded Force India’s highest starting position of the season so far. However he incurred a puncture at the start and had to limp back to the pits. He rose back through the field to claim points for ninth but spent his final stint stuck behind Grosjean and Magnussen.

Spain – Force India’s only representative in Q3, Perez took ninth on the grid which became seventh at the start. He finished there too, holding off Massa at the end despite having six-lap-older tyres. Did well to make a two-stop strategy work with such an early first stop.

Monaco – Backed up Hulkenberg’s qualifying effort with a time less than two-tenths slower than his team mate’s. His race strategy was pin-sharp, jumping ahead of Vettel and Hulkenberg at the first round of stops and getting on to slick tyres a lap before most of the front runners to get into a podium position. He duly delivered an excellent third place for the team.

Canada – Took ‘new tyre pole’ after being edged out of Q3 by his team mate. He tried to make an alternative strategy work, starting on the soft tyres, but found it difficult to warm them up and ended up stuck behind the McLarens. He also got away slowly from his second pit stop and fell behind Kvyat, but passed him to take the final point.

Europe – Would have started on the front row but a crash during final practice left him with a broken gearbox which had to be replaced, earning a five-place grid penalty. Nonetheless from seventh he gained places from Massa and Kvyat at the start, then took the fight to Raikkonen after delaying his first pit stop, passing the Ferrari on the final lap. Third was great, but clearly second was possible.

Austria – A vexing weekend: Alfonso Celis drove his car in first practice, which made the rain in the second session a greater inconvenience. A suspension failure in Q1 kept him from taking part in the second phase of qualifying. And then in the race a brake failure put him out with two laps to go.

Britain – Concentrated on his long-run pace and narrowly missed the cut for Q3. However he jumped up to fourth after delaying his switch to intermediate tyres and being helped by the Virtual Safety Car. He was never going to keep Ricciardo behind but Raikkonen might have been kept at bay had he not spun.

Hungary – A mistake in Q2 cost him dearly: he ended up a second and a half slower than Hulkenberg and missed the cut for the top ten. He also had problems in the pits: after abandoning an attempt to run a single-stop race the team weren’t prepared for his second visit, costing him over eight seconds. But even without that he wouldn’t have beaten Hulkenberg to the final point.

Germany – Was eight-thousandths of a second away from starting two places higher on the grid. But his start was very poor, wheelspin losing him seven places and leaving him with a lot of work to do to get back into the points. He picked off Sainz and Grosjean with little difficulty on his way back through the field, and capitalised on Alonso’s slowing McLaren to claim the final point. His team mate was almost half a minute up the road, however.

Belgium – Reckoned there was no more than a tenth of a second left in the car after claiming a place on the third row. At the start he slipped to eighth avoiding the turn one carnage but he made up places from Grosjean and, after the restart, Kvyat. He pressed on the second stint, passing Massa and Alonso, and wasn’t too far behind his team mate at the end.

Italy – The VJM09s couldn’t match the low-drag FW38s at Monza: Perez was four-tenths off Bottas in qualifying. Although he benefited from Verstappen’s slow start he was demoted by the Red Bull driver at the end of a lonely race.

Singapore – Failing to obey double waved yellow flags earned him a total grid penalty of eight places and cost him a start inside the top ten. This error was the prelude to a fine race performance in the usual Perez mould: stretching out two long stints to claim a useful points haul for the team.

Japan – Held third in the opening stages and the four cars which passed him by the end of the race were all much quicker. He might have stood a chance of keeping Raikkonen behind for longer had Palmer not got in the way. Despite a strong start to his final stint there simply wasn’t the pace in the car to jump the delayed Ricciardo.

Malaysia – Produced another of his much-improved qualifying performances: seventh was as high as the car could manage. He took advantage of the turn one incident to briefly hold third place, but could do nothing to keep Verstappen and Raikkonen behind. Bottas also jumped him via his free pit stop.

United States – Sat out first practice while Alfonso Celis drove. He didn’t make the cut for Q3, partly due to a damaged brake disc, but enjoyed the benefit of ‘new-tyre pole’. He was hit from behind by Kvyat on lap one but recovered to eighth and could’ve been higher had he not pitted shortly before the VSC.

Mexico – Not as quick in the Friday afternoon session as the track cleaned up and the situation was much the same on Saturday: He was half a second off Hulkenberg as he missed the cut for Q3. In the race he got snookered behind the Williams drivers while his team mate beat both of them.

Brazil – Backed up Hulkenberg to put both Force Indias ahead of the two Williams drivers on the grid. By staying out of trouble and staying out of the pits he rose to third place until Verstappen appeared on his tail, and relegated him three laps from home. But Force India vitally outscored Williams with both drivers.

Abu Dhabi – A slight power loss was his only concern on Friday and Hulkenberg pipped him by 0.018 seconds in qualifying. Having been rebuffed by Hulkenberg at the start he settled into eighth place but lost pace at the end of the race and came under pressure from Massa.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “2016 F1 season driver rankings #8: Perez”

  1. It’s an odd one… if you gave me a blank chequebook and asked me to sign one of Perez or Hulkenberg, I think I’d go for Hulkenberg, but yet Perez has visited the podium seven times in fairly similar machinery (let’s not pretend the 2013 McLaren was a top car).

    When presented with the chance for a great result, it’s always Perez, not Hulkenberg, who pops up and seizes it. Hulkenberg has had some poor luck but it doesn’t explain the gulf in podium finishes.

    As I normally say about Perez against Hulkenberg, his highs are higher and his lows are lower.

    I’d far rather see him in the Mercedes than Bottas, but I can’t imagine it’ll happen.

    1. @ben-n You can probably successfully argue that the only reason Perez has been in that position to ‘pop up’ is because he’s nursed his tyres.

      If Pirelli get their mix right next year and manage to return to actual tyres that can be driven, then Perez could be stuffed.

      1. @optimaximal, I don’t mean to target you specifically on this point, but it does feel as if there are a lot of people who want to dismiss Perez by trying to pin his performance, particular when comparing him to Hulkenberg, on something other than his ability.

        They say that it’s the tyres, or it is because he is lucky and Hulkenberg is unlucky (as if Hulkenberg has never profited from the misfortunes of others or as if Perez has never had bad luck of his own), or because of the strategy calls of the team (although they only ever seem to compare Perez’s positive strategy calls with Hulkenberg’s negative ones and never seem to pick up on the times that Hulkenberg’s calls worked and Perez’s didn’t). It’s always some external force, some twist of fate or act of God – anything that can be invoked other than Perez’s ability.

        It just feels as if, sometimes, people slightly resent Perez’s success when compared to Hulkenberg and, rather than wanting to question their opinion of Hulkenberg, seek to downplay Perez and try to find ways in which he can be cast as the inferior driver to Hulkenberg.

        1. The cases of Hulkenberg’s loss being Perez’s gain are far more obvious than the other way round because when it works for Perez, it works big time and Hulkenberg loses out. True, Hulkenberg does get lucky sometimes as well BUT his gains are much lesser in comparison to when Perez gets lucky…and that’s why people fail to remember such situations.

          Whenever Perez gets a podium, Hulkenberg either has a stroke of horrible luck, thus being unable to get results true to his driving on the day OR he simply screws up his own chances. To be honest, this year Hulkenberg deserved to finish higher than Perez in Monaco and Brazil, two races where he could have had the podium if not for his bad luck.

          Many of the people who downplay and resent Perez’s success are Hulkenberg fans, because their driver always loses out big time when Perez succeeds. It would be wrong to claim that Hulkenberg does not deserve a podium and it is a fair assessment that they both are almost equally good drivers, so is it fair that Hulkenberg seems to lose out so much whenever there is a chance for a podium?

          The moments when Hulkenberg messes up his own chances don’t help either. Those unwilling to accept facts will still downplay Perez’s achievements because they “know” Hulkenberg “could” have done better.

          I was one such Hulkenberg fan not so long ago. Even though I’m not the same now and acknowledge Perez for the admirable driver he is, I still resent his podium in Monaco because I feel Hulk deserved that one and his only “fault” was qualifying, running and pitting ahead of his teammate.

          I’ve tried to give some insight into why some people resent Perez’s success, occasionally having done so myself.

      2. Perez won in feeder series, then he comes to F1, finds crappy tyres that limit the cars, becomes the best driver circumventing such limits, and is criticized for doing so. He is the driver with more visits to the podium in a car that is not a top three in the last years. If the only way to reach the podium in a midfield car is managing the tyres other drivers should be imitating him, yet they can’t. What do critics insinuate? That he reaches the podium because he is slow? I guess such people doesn’t understand the sport. He is more likely reaching the podium because he has adapted his pedal and steering control to the spot that hurts the tyres the least: the right thing to do in a tyre-limited formula when you don’t have a fast car.
        The point of the game is scoring points and reaching podiums, he has done it more that everybody else by following this strategy. I guess those critics would be calling him a great driver if he were driving to the limit every lap and finishing every race retiring for lack of tyres, right?

        1. Jorge, did Max beat Ricciardo to his first victory, or did strategy mistakes cost the Aussie?

    2. Agreed. In my opinion he is the best candidate for the Mercedes seat but Force India will not let him go.

  2. I know people don’t like to be reminded of it, but F1 is a lot about luck. Perez came in McLaren in their absolutely worst season in a decades, while Hamilton in his first season with the team got the best car they’ve produced in a decade. To add insult to injury, Hamilton came after a year where they’ve failed to win a single race, while Perez came after they had their best season since 2008!
    Who knows what would either of them achieved had they had each other’s luck with cars.

  3. I’m rather dissapointed Checo is staying with Force India – I believe that next year will be a challenge, and he should have done all he could to get into a Renault for 2017, which has much more potential to be a frontrunning outfit. What is he holding out for by staying put? The fact he is not even under consideration by Mercedes (that we know of) speaks volumes, and he has been repeatedly overlooked by the red cars…

    1. @thomf1s he is waiting for Ferrari. Is it a wise thing to do? I don’t know, but I think that is what he wants.

      1. Michael Brown (@)
        13th December 2016, 15:00

        Would Ferrari sign him after he left their academy to join McLaren?

        1. Difficult to say as the Academy’s been reconfigured twice in Sergio’s absence. But I do get the sense that Ferrari is waiting for someone, and it’s probably not Sergio.

  4. Hmm.. Think he should be higher up the list because of the car he’s in. Should be ahead of the two ferrari drivers. Then again I wont put him ahead of max rosberg, even though i felt checo drove better, only because those two drivers mention had to deliver under immense pressure.

  5. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    13th December 2016, 12:27

    Checo is a strange one. He has an utterly uncanny ability for seizing opportunities in the race. A broad array of truly world class abilities, whether it is with a level of throttle control perhaps unmatched on the grid, a tremendous capacity to conserve tyre rubber or a delicate touch for inclement conditions, make him a more than lethal weapon for a team in Force India’s position. The guy scored more points this year than both Red Bulls did last year, and twice the haul he managed with McLaren. Even his perennial failing, qualifying, has been greatly improved this year. It is difficult to know what more could have been expected of Checo this year.

    And yet, despite this, and despite the almost monthly batch of articles in which Checo purports to ready for a top team (today’s edition), I would be surprised to see Perez make the step up. I think the thing is Checo is driving as well as he is ever going to: he is in that career sweet spot of experience and ability, he has clicked with the team and he has clicked with the more benign methods of race engineer Tim Wright, versus the somewhat headmasterly tutelage of Gianpiero Lambiase. It is difficult to imagine that his performance trajectory will remain at the angle it has sustained for the past two seasons, and clearly Ferrari agree, given they could have replaced Kimi with Perez for next season.

    I take nothing away from Sergio, but there are younger, more dynamic talents in the paddock. I think the fact that he was by no means spectacular in the junior series makes me instinctively suspicious of the depth of his natural ability reserves, and episodes like a bruising year at McLaren make me wonder how well commendable performances in the midfield would translate under the pressurized magnifying class of a top-table seat.

    1. @william-brierty I believe most commentators have mentioned he’s found an almost perfect sweet spot with the high-deg Pirelli rubber, something which may well be gone next year.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        13th December 2016, 13:07

        @optimaximal I wouldn’t say Pirelli degradation is the font of all his competitiveness: 2013, the year when Pirelli maxed out on the bubble-gum factor, was an awful year for Perez in race-trim, and a pair of stellar results in the wet this year have nothing to do with tyre conservation, and more to do with throttle control and a feel for the tyre temperature window, a pair of skills that are definitely 2017 transferable.

        But I won’t rule out his performances taking a hit next year; he has spent his career being fairly uninspiring 80% of the time, but has honed in on a higher performance level in the eighteen months since the summer break last year in addition to sporadically good days in a very competitive Sauber in 2012, so it is not difficult to imagine that such a seismic regulation change would again take him out of what looks to be a narrow window of optimal performance.

        1. @william-brierty Surely 2013 was muddled with the the reversible belt/revert to 2012-spec controversy, whilst 2014 thru 2016 have been a consistent structure with the heat-activated compound?

          Perez has been prety good at finding the limit without causing the plastic compound in the rubber to go off, ruining the tyres, but I don’t think anyone would say this wasn’t just by driving below the limit for a good amount of time then pouncing.

          1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            14th December 2016, 10:11

            @optimaximal True, but in 2013, even after the decision to revert, the compounds were always softer than those used in 2014 and beyond. Pirelli went two stages harder than their 2012 compounds for 2014, and spent the subsequent seasons expanding the temperature window of each construction. Silverstone ’13 was effectively the end of the designed-to-degrade era, albeit given the fundamental chemical parameters of the Pirellis even after the switch to harder constructions the tyres were still susceptible to degrade. Next year’s tyres are ground-up built around laptimes and durability.

            But as I say, Perez’s ability to find the limit of the tyres is not the font of all his competitiveness. His race pace relative to Button actually improved following the switch to the harder, 2012-spec compounds. He will likely remain a very competitive peddler come next year, and it will be interesting to see how Ocon compares.

  6. Perez’s speed in races is fantastic for a mid grid team but his lack of qualifying pace would stop him winning races. Qualifying has been a huge part of the battle between the Mercedes pair.
    He is a good driver but will never be a great. Similar strengths to Button but with less out and out pace. Shame if he had another 2 tenths in qualifying he would be top team material. You can’t drive for a top team without that one lap pace. Great racer though. I think long term great Williams/ force India driver.

    1. Nailed it. That is what is keeping Perez away from a top seat in my opinion.
      when you are driving in the frond you need great qualifying laps. Imagine if Perez was in the Merc in 2016. He would have lost from his teamate easily because usually qualifying is more than half the race with such a car.
      That is also the reason Rosberg could keep fighting Hamilton. Rosberg has mediocre at best race craft but he is actually quite fast especially when it comes to one lap. He sucks at wheel to wheel racing but with such a car being fast in qualy is more important.

  7. I think it will be a shame if we never see Perez in top machinery. For whatever reason I find that he’s one of those drivers people like to find fault with. Just sayin. I don’t know whether he’s got the consistency to go for a championship, but he’s an old school racer, great to watch in wheel to wheel action. I’m a fan.

    1. Interesting that you mention “old school racer” because he sometimes reminds me of the drivers of the 70’s like Depailler, Peterson, Fittipaldi and even Lauda himself. In the right car I think he could be World Champion. People want to explain away his seven podiums as luck and that’s ok. I guess when Alexander the Great won all those battles that was luck also.

      1. Paul Villanueva
        13th December 2016, 16:04

        I agree with you, 7 podiums in small teams is not a matter of luck, or how is that nobody else have done that in recent years.

  8. Perez did a good job this year. Was he better than Hulkenberg? I don’t think he was. Was he more lucky? Yes he was. What matters is that he got the best out of himself. Job well done, now focus on beating Ocon in 2017.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    13th December 2016, 14:21

    A few things will haunt Checo forever:

    1. The stigma of McLaren dropping after a year – it wasn’t as bad as Kvyat but almost as bad. Anytime anyone considers him, they have to overcome that obstacle. McLaren chose to keep Button over him which makes it an even higher obstacle.
    2. The fact that he was beaten by Hulkenberg in 2014 and commandingly beaten in the 1st season of 2015 (80%) in qualifying.
    3. The fact that he beat Nico in 2 seasons but Nico would have been up there without bad luck and bad team calls in a car that really seems to suit Checo.
    4. The fact that towards the end of 2016 Nico managed to overcome the handicap and beat Checo.

    All these factors are obvious to anyone following F1 as are his strengths.

    However, he’s the only driver capable of getting a podium, P2 and even a victory for a team that could only dream of doing so.

    He’s the Fangio of midfield racing and in that regard, there may be no one like him ever in Formula 1. That’s a talent and skill that no one on the field possesses, Hulkenberg and WDCs included.

    So while Checo may never get a top seat and may have screwed Hulkenberg from the opportunity of getting one in collaboration with Force India, there’s no denying his exceptional abilities and results.

    As for his overall ranking, it’s really tough for me to tell whether Perez should be below Sainz and Ricciardo. He and Nico helped secure a P4 spot for Force India in the WCC.

  10. My favorite Racer at the moment. Like Bernie mentioned when you are finished admiring Max’s ability another driver to take notice of is Sergio Perez. Means a lot since Bernie has seen many drivers come and go.

  11. since leaving mclaren, perez has scored more podiums than they have!

  12. Perez is better than Hulkenberg when it comes to tire degradation. Perez has always been a master in that and that is the only thing that makes Perez slightly better than Hulk.

  13. I think Perez is the one who should be considered first for the Mercedes seat because he got the most points of any driver of a Mercedes powered car (the Mercedes team itself aside).

  14. A) All race drivers need a little luck on their side, Perez has it.
    B) Luck alone cannot explain 7 podiums, with midfiled teams.
    C) Europe is for the Europeans, age old BIAS at work here, this is what Perez is facing.
    D) No worries, when slim sr dies, slim jr will spend what is necessary to give him the shot.

    1. Agree with c). Having experienced similar situations his only problem might be not being European -or American if he were in the USA-. No matter how good you are, some people only see nationalities and not the person. I guess that’s where his comments from yesterday come from.

  15. A few spots too low. Best of the non-big 3 teams by a spare podium finish. Epic throttle control, consistent, and intelligent. As underrated as Hulkenberg is overrated. Better than Sainz or Vettel this year, “for sure.”

    1. Paul Villanueva
      14th December 2016, 19:31

      Absolutely agree with you mate! He should be at least 5-6

  16. Perez should have been higher on the list, he did an even better job this year than in 2015 when they put him in 3rd or 2nd. An amazing driver that has everything to be worthy of a top seat, wether british press and fans want it or not.

  17. Ridiculous how many fans and ‘journalists’ still downplay the evident talent of Perez…

  18. I find hard to understand why this automatic assumption that drivers that can’t handle this tires will do better on harder ones and viceversa.

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