Kate and Chris on Sergio Perez

Formula One loves to single out drivers. Sergio Perez certainly came into the 2013 season under unique circumstances: he replaced 2008 world champion, Lewis Hamilton, beating out other drivers to the seat who many believed deserved it more than the Mexican.

We have seen a lot of audacious moves from Sergio this season, prompting many to suggest that he is a dangerous driver. His clashes with Fernando and Kimi in China, Jenson in Bahrain and with Kimi again in Monaco have not shed the most redeeming of lights on the Mclaren driver.

In this post, Kate Hewitt (katehewif1.wordpress.com) and I discuss whether or not Sergio Perez really is as dangerous as his critics would suggest, or if there are underlying factors contributing to an otherwise natural level of aggression.

Kate Hewitt

You have to applaud Sergio for his efforts, and for his determination. He was one of two drivers that made the Monaco Grand Prix bearable, just because he tried something new, something creative and something risky. But was that perhaps a little too much?
During the 2012 season, you could argue he was one of the stand-out middle team drivers. Driving his way to 3 impressive podium finishes, and being renowned for his tyre conservation, it wasn’t a surprise that the higher teams were keeping a watchful eye. Though as soon as the McLaren deal was announced, his ability to score points dropped away quite rapidly.

Despite this, Sergio kept level-headed and continued to race, though a daft move in Abu Dhabi made me reconsider McLaren’s decision. His incident during that race is usually forgotten about because everyone’s eyes were on Sebastian Vettel powering through the order, and the huge collision between Narain Karthikeyan and Nico Rosberg.

Sergio and Paul Di Resta were battling for position with Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber right behind the duo and Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi not far behind either. Sergio squeezed Paul over the kerb and then Sergio himself went wide and off track, he rejoined the track into the path of Grosjean at turn 11 and the two touched. Sergio spun, and Romain and Mark made contact that put them both out of the race. Pastor just narrowly missed being hit, as did Kamui. This incident earned Sergio a drive through penalty, 1 of 6 penalties he received that season (2 reprimands, 1 drive through, 1 stop and go, 1 grid drop, 1 no action taken).

Before the deal got announced, I genuinely thought Paul Di Resta may have had his break-through and would be signing for the team, though clearly, I was wrong to think so. It also dawned on me that the signing may be due to his financial backing, rather than his driver ability. His first half of the season was impressive, but it looked as if McLaren were too eager to replace Lewis that they may have chosen the wrong man.

Enough of last year though, let’s move on to this season.

Sergio would not have expected to be jumping into an underperforming McLaren – so if you’re theoretically not in the title fight, can you take more risks?

Risk taking is what shows the best drivers from the good drivers, and as I said earlier, Sergio and Adrian Sutil were the only drivers that made the Monaco Grand Prix enjoyable. I applaud Sergio for this race, due to the fact that he tried to overtake in different places whereas other drivers hesitated and waited for the DRS zone – the easier route past a driver. The Raikkonen incident is a tricky one, because both drivers could have done something to avoid the contact. Raikkonen could have given more space, but Sergio might have been a bit too ambitious – just because you made a pass there before, doesn’t mean you can pull it off again.

My main concern however is not his ability to drive, because it’s quite clear the young Mexican does have a lot of potential. My concern is his aggression and respect for others. That’s not me having a dig at Sergio, because it’s not. In terms of respect, what I mean is that you have to respect the other drivers on track to be able to pull of moves that are potentially dangerous or risky. The sorts of moves that Mark Webber pulled on Fernando Alonso, or Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher both at Eau Rouge last season. Would someone like Sergio be able to pull that type of move off? I’m not entirely sure.

The next thing is that, although I am loving the inter-team battle between Sergio and Jenson, I feel that it’s unnecessary. It’s brilliant to watch, and keeps the fans very entertaining but for McLaren it must be very tense. The closest rivalry to the old days of Prost and Senna were close when Alonso and Hamilton were team-mates in 2007, and though no match will ever repeat the Senna/Prost rivalry, you have to think that if Hamilton and Alonso had continued to be team mates, a rivalry could have formed. The way Jenson and Sergio were going about each-other also made me think that things could turn sour, Jenson was talking about Sergio as if he was a young child that needed to go back to karting.

The last thing you want as a team is to have your drivers crash into each other. Jenson and Lewis made contact in Canada 2011 which put Lewis out of the race, and Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber touched in Turkey 2010 which ended both the drivers hopes of winning, and stopped the Red Bulls from finishing 1 and 2. Those sorts of things do happen, but they can also be easily avoided, which is down to the team – depending on whether you’re pro team orders or not.

Sergio and Jenson already have made contact during the Bahrain Grand Prix, which Jenson labelled as dangerous driving. No matter what strategy either driver pulls, they both seem to end up racing each other. If I was a McLaren fan I would be biting my nails very nervously at the sight of the teams two drivers scrapping between themselves, but with Jenson’s experience, and Sergio’s potential it could prove to be the best inter-team battle of the season.

So in response to the title question – I wouldn’t go as far as saying he is dangerous, but I would say learn from those around you (Pastor Maldonado/Romain Grosjean) and tone down the aggression. Get rid of all the desperation of trying to impress, and convert it into determination. Once that all comes together, matched with a competitive McLaren, we definitely have a force to be reckoned with.

Chris
 

To some, Mexico is a very dangerous country. Their culture, or at least a large part of it, is mired in a despicable drug war that permeates nearly every aspect of the country’s citizens’ lives, as well as the international headlines.

If there ever was a time for this country to have a hero to look up to, it is now.

Mexico has not had a Formula One winner since 1970, when Pedro Rodriguez won the Belgian Grand Prix, and you can tell that the time is right for another to come along. Enter, Sergio Perez.

While he may not be a Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez has a lot to be proud of in his career in racing. But junior championships do not a legend make. The Mexican’s mark on the sport of Formula One is still a work in progress, but you can be sure he will do everything he can to guarantee that mark is made eventually.

2012 was Sergio’s breakthrough season. With the small Sauber team, he dragged a light-on-its-tires car to three podiums, all in spectacular fashion, while also remaining professional (for the most part). It was perhaps inevitable, then, that the eyes of the top teams would be drawn to this young star and the potential he still had yet to show.

When he was signed to Mclaren for 2013 and beyond, replacing 2008 champion, Lewis Hamilton, the pressure to emulate the predecessor’s performances mounted.

Let me take a minute here, though, to explain those pressures. Resting on the shoulders of Sergio Perez is the pride of a nation. The very pride of Mexico is in the hands of Sergio Perez and they way he performs on track. Were it not for the millions that the country’s billionaire president, Carlos Slim, has poured into Sergio’s racing career, then perhaps the pressure would not be quite so intense. But because so many monetary resources have been dumped into making sure Mexico has a presence on the international racing stage, the necessity of being the best is only magnified.

What do you do when you’re under immense pressure? Some will say that pressure helps them focus on the task at hand. They say that knowing the fate of one entity, large or small, rests on their abilities makes them perform their best. How much of that is the truth, though? There is a certain element of knowing you hold the fate of someone or something else in your hands that spawns an inherent level of indecisiveness, desperation even. This is what Sergio Perez has had to deal with since the day he made his Formula One debut.

After making headlines in 2012, the natural assumption was that, with an even better team, it was only a matter of time until we had the very first Mexican Formula One world champion. That assumption was certainly justified. But what we began to see at the end of 2012 was, as I referred to earlier, a level of desperation.

It was perhaps cruel irony that at the first race as a confirmed Mclaren driver, the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, Sergio Perez would spin out of the race in a desperate attempt to pass the very man he was replacing. Everyone went crazy. What were previously whoops for joy at the prospect of having Sergio in a Mclaren, soon turned to shouts of condemnation at the idea of having this senseless maniac behind the wheel of the best car on the grid. Sergio may have been feeling the pressure already, but audiences were doing him no favors whatsoever.

Turn to 2013. The Bahrain Grand Prix. After getting an earful from his boss, Martin Whitmarsh, for being to passive on track in the Chinese Grand Prix, Sergio made a commitment to himself to be more aggressive for the next race.

Sergio was lucky that his then recalcitrant Mclaren was feeling a bit more spritely for the desert island race, for the moves he made in that Grand Prix were perhaps justified only by the car’s competitiveness that weekend. The Mexican did step over the line at times during that race, but I commend him for his gutsy determination to continue to make his mark on the sport.

Some have called upon Mclaren to get rid of Sergio, though, for his lack of points compared to teammate, Jenson Button, along with his so-called “dangerous maneuvers” on track, aren’t shedding the best of light on the team at a time when they need all the good light they can get.

Sergio has been too aggressive at times, and he has accepted the consequences for those actions. But has he been dangerous? No. He is merely racing under the pressures and heightened anticipations of a country longing to have a champions, and can you blame him for making a few mistakes every once in a while?

I am not advocating all of Sergio’s behaviors. But I am advocating his continued fight for his country’s pride. If he needs inspiration, all he needs to do is put himself in the position of Pastor Maldonado when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. The Venezuelan was in the same position as Sergio, but perhaps one year ahead.

After a miserable year in 2011, where a solitary point in the Belgian Grand Prix was all he had to show in a car Rubens Barichello only managed to scrape 4 points out of, Pastor went into 2012 knowing his new car was much more competitive. When he beat Fernando Alonso in a straight fight for the win in Spain, all the pressure he was under from his home country melted away. Similarly vast amounts of money were poured into Pastor’s racing career by the Venezuelan government, just like Sergio’s, so Pastor knew exactly what it was like to understand the almost vital necessity to eventually perform.

Pastor is far from the perfect driver, but if Sergio can take in the experience Pastor had in 2012 and apply it to 2013 and beyond, there is no doubt in my mind that he will do his country proud.

Sergio Perez is not dangerous. Anyone who tells you that is misleading you. Sergio is fighting a valiant fight that his whole country wants him desperately to win. If he doesn’t take any risks to get there, then he is doing an injustice to all of his fans.

Keep on fighting, Sergio.

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