This type of blog post/article has been pretty common these days, as it usually is in the wake of a formula one season. However, I feel I must tell you who I believe performed the best over the 2012 Formula one season.
I’ll be giving a detailed review of each driver’s season and then explain why I put them where I put them on the list.
10. Sergio Perez
Had I made this list after, lets say, the Italian Grand Prix weekend, Perez would be knocking in the door of the top 5, maybe the top 3. However, this is now, almost a month after the whole season is over. Perez had some absolutely remarkable performances warranting great praise. He’s obviously got enough praise from Mclaren.
Perez’s year started off well. An 8th place in Melbourne was a bit low key considering the promise the car showed in testing and the brave one-stop strategy he deployed. However, Kobayashi’s 6th place was more encouraging.
Then it all changed in Malaysia. The expected rain on race day made Friday a bit pointless, but preparation was needed nonetheless, just in case of a dry race. There wasn’t one, but it was just as well because we saw one of the most tense, exciting and unexpected battles for the lead we have seen in a long time. Perez vs Alonso in the recalcitrant Ferrari duked it out on the drying Sepang circuit until something had to give. Perez unfortunately slid out wide into turn 12, costing him a win which was surely his to have.
Following this was a string of relatively low-key races featuring the odd 10th place. More impressive, though was his qualifying performance in Spain. 5th place in the grid and very good race pace should have given Perez reasonable hope of a second podium. However, contact with Grojean in the first corner on lap one ruined any of those chances.
Perez also had a good run in Monaco even though he just missed out on points. Starting 24th and last after hitting the wall in qualifying was never going to have a lot in store in terms of race result, especially with the cars so extremely close pace-wise. He did set an impressive fastest lap on race day, catching the eye of one Martin Witmarsh, the Brit citing this and other performances as the reason for Mclaren signing the Mexican for 2013 and beyond.
Canada was another highlight of the season for Perez. A disappointing qualifying once again left him well in the midfield, making an 8th or 9th place finish seem the most he could hope for the next day. An inspired race strategy along with great tire wear allowed him to make only one stop. One would think this would have left him vulnerable at the end of the race to the two-stoppers, but he defied those odds my charging thought the field to pass Vettel, Rosberg and Alonso to name a few, and take a remarkable 3rd place behind winner, Hamilton and Grojean.
Valencia should have been another great race. The pace in the Sauber was there all weekend and duly in the race, it looked like, with a good strategy, a top five just might have been feasible for at least one of the black and white cars. This never materialized and a 9th was all he got in the end.
An unfortunate and pointless race, after a clash with Maldonado, in England set the scene for a great comeback performance in Germany.
A mix of wet and dry practice sessions made the weekend a bit if a gamble in terms of setup for the race, and duly in qualifying, Perez couldn’t get it quite right and ended up 12th. Once again, though, Sunday ended up being positive thanks to good strategy, great race pace and some fantastic passes. All of this culminated in one of Sauber’s best weekends in terms of points in their whole existence. 5th for Kobayashi and 6th for Perez at the end of the race soon turned into 4th and 6th after a time penalty for Vettel. Sauber, and Perez, were setting themselves up to be at the front for a long time.
Hungary, after this weekend, was an extreme letdown. Perez qualified 14th and made no real progress in the race. Sauber had some head scratching do do over the August break.
Belgium brought more rain and uncertainty over the weekend as the 2012 season resumed. The famous Belgian track is always a bit of an unknown in terms of weather, but Perez and Sauber made the most of it to qualify on the first and third rows, Kobayashi’s effort trumping Perez’s in the end. Nevertheless, the race pace of the Sauber combined, finally, with a fantastic qualifying gave the team so much hope for the race.
Grojean’s massive crash before the first corner of the race took out Perez immediately and gave Kobayashi damage which would restrict him to limp home 13th. A promising weekend, ruined.
In Italy, Sauber was a bit on the backfoot. Sauber believed they wouldn’t excel at this track and this was proved when Perez qualified 13th. Nevertheless, race day proved much more fruitful as Perez beautifully executed a one stop strategy which had him on brand new tires, and in 6th place, with just under 30 laps to go. He was on the move. He quickly disposed of Rosberg and Raikkonen and set his eyes on the Ferraris. Again, he charged, set fastest lap after fastest lap and was soon in second place. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enought time to catch Hamilton’s Mclaren, but he had definately caught the eye of everyone in the paddock.
Singapore was not high on the list of Sauber’s favorite tracks. The high temperatures and low speed corners didn’t suit the C31 Sauber and this was proved when Perez qualified 14th. The race was long, hot, and hard to pass in, but Perez pushed through to claim a solitary point after the 2 hour race.
In the aftermath of the race, Mclaren announced they would replace the departing Hamilton with Perez. This was much to the surprise of many, including me, who thought Hulkenberg was a better candidate for the seat. Nevertheless, Perez deserved it after his “giant killing” performances earlier in the season.
Japan brought Sauber back to a track that suited its chassis and Perez went on to qualify 6th, which became 5th after Button’s penalty. The race was looking great with Perez in the hunt for the podium. The Mexican made a dynamite movie on Hamilton into the hairpin and seemed to justify Mclaren’s decision. After Perez’s pitstops however, he was back behind the Mclaren with the work to do all over again. The Mexican was clearly quicker than Hamilton, and soon caught up. He tried the same move into the hairpin, but Hamilton was smarter this time. He placed his Mclaren just to the inside of the corner, throwing off the Mexican. He almost saved a big slide, but in the end was unable to keep it out if the gravel. A good result, lost. Some started to question if Mclaren’s choice was the right one.
What started out, and looked destined to end, as a fantastic, career making season, ended a bit flat as Perez failed to score after his announcement as Hamilton’s replacement at Mclaren. Everyone thought that the pressure to keep impressing was getting to Perez and also quick, too, were the bosses at Mclaren to play down the lack of results after Singapore. They called him a gem that needed to be polished, and they’re right.
I believe Perez has the ability to become one of the future greats of Formula one. His results in the first 2/3 of the season prove that. Had Perez kept up the performances we were starting to get used to from him, he would surely be in the top five of this list. However, his disappointing end to the season has held him back. Hopefully his time at Mclaren will teach him some more control and consistency.