Why Perez believes he can make a success of his second chance with a top team

2021 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

One of the most remarkable details of Sergio Perez’s career so far is that despite having spent it almost entirely in ‘midfield’ cars, he’s reached the podium on no fewer than 10 occasions.

More than half of these came since the beginning of the V6 hybrid turbo era, when the rostrum has largely been off-limits to those not equipped with one of the top cars. Yet more surprising still, none of those podiums came in the single season he spent with a ‘top team’, his 2013 stint at McLaren.

It goes without saying that he and his new team for next year, Red Bull, will expect to see Perez on the podium far more often in the 2021 F1 season.

At the end of his second year in F1 in 2012, Perez staked a lot on his chance to join McLaren, replacing no less a driver than Lewis Hamilton. Perez had been a Ferrari Driver Academy member, and had impressed in his sophomore campaign with their customer team Sauber, running Fernando Alonso close for victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix, his first of three podiums that year. But joining McLaren meant severing his ties to the Scuderia.

McLaren move looked like a dream chance for Perez…
His hopes McLaren would provide an environment and a car in which he might thrive were quickly dashed. The team which won seven races in 2012 produced an aggressive development of its chassis which proved too ambitious. Perez and team mate Jenson Button laboured unsuccessfully to find a sweet spot for the MP4-28.

By the end of the year Perez’s efforts in his third season of F1 compared favourably with the world champion alongside him. His best result was fifth, Button’s fourth, and Perez scored slightly more than two-thirds of his team mate’s points tally.

Nonetheless McLaren had persuaded themselves that Perez wasn’t the successor to Hamilton they were looking for, and that Kevin Magnussen was. Perez was ushered aside for 2014 and Magnussen installed alongside Button, to no significantly greater effect, once the team’s season-opening double podium finish proved a false dawn.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Magnussen, too, was shown the door after a single season. That Perez plus his replacement and Magnussen’s eventual successor Stoffel Vandoorne all failed to thrive at the team says rather more about McLaren at that time than its drivers. Since the installation of a new management regime, including the appointment of former racer Gil de Ferran as sporting director, incoming drivers Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lando Norris have thrived in a way Perez and others didn’t.

…but it quickly soured, and he was out after one year
Viewing Perez’s spell at McLaren from the perspective of seven years later, it’s also clear the team was at the beginning of a slump it is only now starting to emerge from. Third place in the championship this year was its best result since 2012.

In the meantime, Perez went away and built himself a reputation as a formidable force in F1’s closely contested midfield. From 2015 to 2020 he was the top scorer at Force India/Racing Point, and in the 2016 and 2017 championships finished ‘best of the rest’ behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers.

During that time Perez saw off Nico Hulkenberg, who arrived in F1 with a clutch of titles from junior series and was widely considered a star of the future. This was in contrast to Perez, whose Mexican backing led some to ascribe his place in F1 to finance as much as talent. They include, as recently as two weeks ago, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner.

Now, seven years on from his McLaren spell, Perez says he is far better prepared to take advantage of the opportunity to wield a competitive car.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“I think I’ve learnt a huge amount,” he said when asked by RaceFans at the Turkish Grand Prix. “Going there, things that didn’t work.

Sergio Perez, Racing Point, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Perez scored a shock win for Racing Point in Bahrain
“Then being seven years with a different team, being in the sport, the level of mature-ness, the level of knowledge, experience. I’m such a different driver, definitely much more ready to make it work than last time.”

It was never a given that Perez would have another opportunity to drive for a leading team again. Why was he passed over in the meantime? His at times fractious on-track relationship with 2017-18 team mate Esteban Ocon may have prompted concerns. And while his renowned tyre-nursing race performances are a key strength, his one-lap pace has been slightly weaker. While he easily out-qualified Lance Stroll for the past two seasons, he was decisively beaten by Ocon in 2018.

Now he will go up against the formidable Max Verstappen, who will have his fourth team mate in as many years. Perez need only look at what happened to his predecessors – one left, two dropped – to understand the scale of the challenge he faces. But this time he has a career’s worth of experience to make the most of his opportunity.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

Join the RaceFans Supporters Drive!

RaceFans Supporter Drive If you've enjoyed RaceFans' motor sport coverage during 2020, please take a moment to find out more about our Supporter Drive.

We're aiming to welcome 3,000 new Supporters to help fund RaceFans so we can continue to produce quality, original, independent motorsport coverage. Here's what we're asking for and why - and how you can sign up:

2021 F1 season

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

36 comments on “Why Perez believes he can make a success of his second chance with a top team”

  1. I still maintain that Perez has never had a shot in a top team and it frustrates me when people suggest that he has. McLaren truly started a downturn in 2013, which coincided with Perez’s arrival. Using Button as a yardstick who was there in both 2012 and 2013, he scored 3 wins in 2012 and couldn’t make the podium once in 2013… as well as only finishing above 6th twice.

    If anything, the Racing Point of this year was a better car compared to the rest of the grid than the MP4-28.

    Perez very much deserves this shot. I’m expecting Verstappen to easily have the edge, but Perez has a very realistic opportunity to turn up to every race knowing he could get on the podium or win the race.

    1. But Button did bear Perez overall. So, applying logic that we often see on social media, if Verstappen doesn’t convincingly beat Perez, then Button is better than Verstappen

    2. Michael Counsell
      18th December 2020, 15:16

      Spot on Ben. Sometimes the narrative just sticks. The McLaren was not a top team and Perez really did not fail. He was up against a world champion and not that far behind and sometimes ahead of Button. However Magnussen was a really promising talent at the time and more likely to be the next Lewis Hamilton than Perez was.

    3. And it frustrates me when people can’t distinguish between a top team having a bad season and a midfield team.
      The core of what you say is true, Checo never had a shot in a team with front running pace. Yet McLaren clearly was a top team still when he joined them, they had the resources and the capabilities to deliver. They utterly failed in that regard in 2013 of course. It’s true that this was the starting point of their downward spiral, but mainly 2013 was a season lost due to poor decisions on car design/concept than them already being a midfield team only.
      Call me nitpicky, but a team doesn’t stop being a top team just because of one bad season. Or would you call Ferrari a midfield team?
      This holds true for teams that went in the opposite direction as well. Williams didn’t become a top team again just because of the 2014/15 seasons.
      It’s a process that makes top teams descend into midfielders and the other way around as well. Talking drain of money, talent, expertise, etc.
      2013 was the beginning of a McLaren’s decline not them being midfielders all of a sudden.

    4. I think the car was relatively good, but the team couldn’t understand the car.
      Button has admitted himself he wasn’t too good with car setup. Hamilton had left the team and he was the reference so it was easy for Button to get up to speed once Hamilton had set the markers.
      Perez was new in Mclaren and relied on Button to understand the car. That was like being led by a man wearing shades in a dimly lit room. The result was they both got no where quickly. Mclaren trusted Button’s imput and that was leading them into a tight corner.
      Perez had to leave because Mclaren needed a new Hamilton and they tried with Magnussen.

    5. @ben-n just came here to sign this comment

    6. Everyone has a bad year – Ham in 2011 was riddled with errors, as was Ver in 2018 (first half anyway). That McLaren was hardly a top car and probably worse than all his force India s and racing points

      Fantastic for checo, I really thing he will do well

  2. I’m a big fan of Perez. But that team seems like a career graveyard for anyone not named Verstappen.

    BTW it’s astonishing to be reminded he was dislodged from McLaren for Magnussen. In retrospect. McLaren really was out to sea after Hamilton left.

    1. Because two of Max’s teammates performed badly?

      Gasly won a race this season, had a podium last season and is being linked to a Renault seat if Ocon keeps underperforming. Ricciardo is moving to McLaren, who came in third and just got a big investment. Sainz is a Ferrari driver now.

      Sounds like being Verstappen’s team mate guarantees you a spot in a top 4 team to me.

      1. a top 4 team

        you are very positive for the Ferrari team next year ;)

        1. Lets be honest, if Vettel had performed on the same level as Leclerc, they’d have been in the mix for the fight for P3.

          1. True that, yet another dig at vettel just coming from analysing the facts, just look at 2019, similar points between the 2, so why couldn’t he do that in 2020?

          2. János Henkelmann
            18th December 2020, 18:27

            Very good point!

            202 points were enough for P3, so Leclerc’s 98 x2 would have put the Scuderia right there up with the others…

      2. Gasly is a rule-proving exception. His reputation only survived because of his later performance at STR that was the story of the year. You can rattle off at least half a dozen once-vaunted names, Algesauri, Buemi, etc., who got spat out by that tearm/program and went nowhere in F1. Even Ricciardo had to rehab his reputation as someone who ran away from competition with Verstappen. It’s hot lava.

    2. But that team seems like a career graveyard for anyone not named Verstappen.

      A bit of hyperbole there @dmw
      The team was a huge Success for Vettel. And it wasn’t too bad for Webber or for Ricciardo.

    3. But now McLaren have rebuilt themselves.

  3. The comparison to Ocon is a healthy reminder that Perez may be good but not that good.

    Absolutely not pre-judging. He will now have his chance and let’s see. But a healthy reminder that it’s not a given he’ll be up there with Max, as Red Bull hope.

    1. Not for the single lap speed. But in the races he did way better then Ocon. And the points only come on the Sundays.

    2. I don’t think Red Bull really care if he’s up there with Max. What they want/need is a dependable number two that will consistently put points on the board. Max is clearly the number one at RB and will likely outperform Checo. But, as long as Checo can scoop up points and allow RB to pressure the Mercs with strategy calls (which Albon just wasn’t able to be in a position to allow), I think RB will be more than happy with Checo.

      1. What Redbull needs is a driver who can provide quality feedback on their car, so they can make
        those necessary adjustments. Right now i dont think they really have this with Max, who seems to just make the most of what he’s presented with. In this regard, he is no Hamilton. Redbull has Albon in the role of test driver, but unless he also provides them with critical feedback on the car, his role wont amount to much. Now if only Redbull had gone for Alonso… ;)

        1. Max is very good with technical stuff ask Daniel he said that Max was a technical nerd with setups and technicals things of the car.

  4. Using twitter/facebook fanboy simplistic logic

    If Verstappen doesn’t convincingly beat Perez, then Button is better than Verstappen

  5. Well at least in the Career of Perez this step only will do good.
    His career will not be ended by a better driver and the expectations are fairer.
    He just have to do good, take care of the strategical options of the team and go for the occasional win where possible.
    More podiums, realistic change for a win and a better car and team.

    1. Coventry Climax
      19th December 2020, 13:12

      “His career will not be ended by a better driver”? Don’t understand what you’re saying here. You rate Perez higher than Verstappen? That’s very doubtful, to say the least.
      The big ‘if’ in my opinion, is whether Perez will be able to hold his personal ambitions, ego and wits in check. His nickname ‘chec(k)o’ isn’t really spot on, in that respect. He’s fast on sundays, but also proved (and many times over, so seemingly not really learning) he easily forgets the team interest and lets himself get engaged into personal clashes, with teammates (the ultimate no-go) as well as other drivers.

      1. Coventry Climax
        19th December 2020, 13:15

        @erikje: Maybe I read you wrong and you meant to say Vettel is a beter driver than Perez. But I actually think that is very doubtful too. Would have very much liked to see how those two would have measured up.

  6. My only wish is that he beats both Aston Martin drivers in the WDC standings. Preferably by a lot. That is all.

    1. I think the RBR should easily outclass the Aston. But Stroll and Vettel both have a lot to prove. Can’t wait for the 2021 season to start now!

    2. It is a strange world. At first when it was announced that Perez will be forced to leave Racing Point, it seemed unfair and a strange decision but look at it now! He has been given a golden opportunity to prove his worth and that could not have happened if he had stayed with RP. Everything happens for a reason! ;) Good luck, Checo! I’m really pleased to read this news and hopefully he gets the results he deserves.

      On another topic: The 2021 season driver changes are playin out nicely – on paper at least 6 teams are set to be regular podium contenders. Should be a heck of a mashup.

  7. If Max is a match for Lewis next season than Bottas has to be careful of Perez!

  8. “Now he will go up against the formidable Max Verstappen, who will have his fourth team mate in as many years. Perez need only look at what happened to his predecessors – one left, two dropped – to understand the scale of the challenge he faces. But this time he has a career’s worth of experience to make the most of his opportunity.”

    Love this phrase, verstappen the team mate destroyer!

    1. And agree with what a few of the others said, mclaren 2013 wasn’t a top team any more and perez never got a chance, so good he has it now.

  9. 7 Years is a long time and running in the midfield for the last while probably gave him lots of opportunities to learn and grow his craft; experience goes a long way for drivers that know how to tap in to it. Another thing that strikes me about Perez is that it seems he doesn’t let where he is whether it’s car, grid, team, or whatever really get to him; he always gets his head down and takes care of his end of things.

    With the chaos and noise right now at RB with their revolving door (I don’t think they even know what they’re looking for at this point :P), being able to focus on driving like he can will serve him well.

  10. This is my expectation too!

  11. If it’s true he always focuses on race setup, I hope he now knows to mix it up and go for qualifying on tracks where it matters more.

  12. Good luck to Perez he has will a very competitive team mate in Verstappen in a team that has a definite driver hierarchy.

Comments are closed.