The driver deserving a top seat but who missed the boat
There are many drivers in Formula 1 who deserve a top seat and never get one, and Sergio Perez certainly fits in to that category.
The 29-year-old is one of the most dependable drivers on the grid, constantly extracting the ultimate performance from his car, and this isn’t a new thing.
During the early stages of his F1 career, Perez showed that he had an abundance of potential, out-performing the abilities of his Sauber, and in only his second season in the series he scored three
podiums, taking second place at a rain-soaked Malaysian Grand Prix, a third in Canada, and another
second place at Monza.
The Mexican’s spirited drives earned him a seat at McLaren for the following year in 2013, and while it appeared like it was Perez’s time on the big stage, the timing ended up being all wrong, with McLaren’s performances starting to stutter.
After a difficult year with the Woking based team, where he ended the season 11th in the driver’s
championship – his worst finishing position to date – Perez moved to Force India (now named Racing Point) and has been there ever since.
A loyal servant to the plucky underdog team, Perez has carved himself out a great reputation, repeating his feats at Sauber by regularly maximising the potential of his car and bringing points home when the opportunities go begging.
It is something the 29-year-old does time and time again, and this year has been no exception.
Although this season did not get off to the greatest of starts, with Racing Point finding themselves struggling to get a handle on their car, he still managed to scored three points finishes in the opening four races.
After a mid-season slump which saw the Mexican miss out on points on eight consecutive occasions, he got back to being a regular top ten runner at the Belgian Grand Prix, and since then has only finished outside of the points once, when he retired in Singapore.
To a team like Racing Point, Perez is almost vital for their survival. Yes, he brings a lot of sponsorship with him via the Mexican government and oil giants, but he is worth so much more than that.
With the midfield being ever tighter, even the smallest of points are crucial for a constructor in order to leap up the championship order and bringing with it extra prize money at the end of the season, and this is where Perez excels.
After their difficult start to the season, Racing Point are now sixth in the constructor’s championship, one point ahead of Toro Rosso and 18 behind Renault, and with such a tight battle ensuing, Racing Point will be hoping Perez can maintain his recent fine form for the final races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
Showing such ability on a regular basis isn’t an easy feat, and would often bring the top teams knocking, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Perez and he appears to have missed the boat.
The reason behind that is partly to do with his time at McLaren, where he was completely out-performed by his then team-mate, Jenson Button, but McLaren’s performances that year weren’t exactly up to the same form of the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, and the Woking team found themselves a long way down the pecking order.
It’s a shame that year had such an impact on the Mexican, making him an unviable option for the big teams, because with a car capable of winning, Perez would surely be a title contender.
Furthermore, it has been six years since that horrible, career defining season, and what Perez has done in the interim has been nothing short of exceptional.
He isn’t a ‘one season wonder’ and he is constantly showing the world what a top line driver he is, with his performance at last weekend’s United States Grand Prix demonstrating exactly what the 29-year-old is capable of.
After a mix-up about attending the weighbridge in Friday practice, Perez was given a penalty, meaning he had to start the Grand Prix from the pitlane – not ideal to say the least.
Racing Point were fully expecting Perez to have a tough time of it on race day, but taking a gun-ho approach, the team opted to put Perez on a one-stop strategy and he executed it perfectly, making use of his brilliant ability to look after his tyres like some sort of precious cargo, whilst at the same time carving his way through the field to finish 10th.
To put in to context just how good this performance was, his team-mate, Lance Stroll started the race from 14th on the grid and ended up finishing 13th.
In some ways, it is frustrating to see Perez stuck in a midfield team, unable to challenge for wins or podiums, but it is also great to see him doing so well for such a brilliant team and he appears to be really enjoying his time with the Silverstone based squad.
But no matter how good he is for Racing Point, it’s a real shame that he will unlikely ever get the opportunity to race for a title challenging team and put his name in the record books as a winner in Formula 1, and the real loser there is Formula 1.