Why Sergio Perez cannot lose out on a drive in 2021
Perez's possible departure from F1 would be a loss for any team. I explain why.
Although it only seems like yesterday since Sauber signed the young Mexican for the upcoming season, this week marks ten years since Sergio Perez broke the news that he would be making his Formula 1 debut.
However, as we come to the closing seven races of this strange and rather unique season, the driver, known as 'Checo', now faces a possibility he has not yet experienced during his tenure in the sport, the possibility of not having a drive for the new season.
Checo, then a member of Ferrari's young driver academy, made his debut with the Swiss team in 2011, finished in the points on five occasions throughout the season and showed promise despite a brutal crash during practice for that year's Monaco Grand Prix, which left him with a concussion and forcing him to sit out of the race in Monaco and Canada on medical grounds. However, it was 2012 where he really showed his promising talent.
In only the second race of the season in what turned out to be an ultra-dramatic year for F1, Perez showed unbelievable pace in a rain-soaked Malaysian Grand Prix to close down and challenge Ferrari's Fernando Alonso for the lead. Unfortunately, a mistake would eventually cost Perez what seemed like a sure victory, but he would recover to take his first of eight podiums in F1 so far. He also showed it was not luck, after taking two other podiums in Canada and Italy that year to prove he was just more than a young face with plenty of sponsorship.
Perez challenges Fernando Alonso for the lead, 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix. (Wikipedia)
Sought after as one of the promising drivers of the future after his efforts in 2012, he was convinced by McLaren to come on-board and replace the outgoing Lewis Hamilton for the following year. However, this would ultimately prove to be a bad move for Perez. 2013 was the year that cracks started to form in the mighty McLaren stronghold with the car not performing to expectations, while Perez and teammate Jenson Button didn't exactly see eye-to-eye.
Perez was determined to prove he was the top man in the team, which only caused multiple incidents throughout the season, while also occasionally clashing with Button on-track, much to the annoyance of his teammate and the team itself. Unfortunately, it ensured that Perez would not undergo a second season behind the wheel of a McLaren.
With nowhere to turn and new regulations looming in 2014, Perez moved to Force India and ultimately throughout the years, formed a partnership that went far beyond the usual driver/team status. From this season to now, Perez racked up five podiums for the team and became synonymous for being one of the best drivers to conserve tyres over the course of a race distance. However, halfway through the 2018 season, it was becoming quite clear that there was something very wrong with Force India.
Perez has taken a total of eight podiums in his F1 career so far, the last coming at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (FORMULA 1)
Team owner Vijay Mallya was hiding in the UK due to extradition efforts by the Indian Government to face criminal charges in India as the financial deficits of the team were becoming too much, the team falling into administration after that year's Hungarian Grand Prix. Perez, a creditor of the team, was the one revealed to have instigated the administration along with a group of creditors.
After being accused of doing so because he was tired of not being paid by the team, he actually revealed in an adjoining statement on social media the intention to allow the team to keep working and ultimately save hundreds of jobs while working to find a new owner for the team. It became clear that he held the team and its staff very close and personal to do such a move, while a consortium of investors led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll would ultimately take over the team during the summer break, forming it into what is know known as Racing Point and from 2021 onwards, Aston Martin Racing.
Despite signing a contract until 2022 with the team and being presumed to be one of the main players when Aston Martin comes on board with the team next year, it will not be. Sebastian Vettel, who will leave Ferrari at the end of the year will drive for the team alongside Lance Stroll, as Perez, despite all his efforts to keep the team afloat, will be cast out into the dark. Both Perez and the team have insisted there is no bad blood over the decision, but you can't help but feel really bad for Checo over the decision to take Vettel over him after all he has done for the team. Without Checo after all, there would have been no Racing Point, and more likely than not, no Aston Martin in 2021.
So, is this the end for Sergio Perez in F1? I most definitely hope not. As a complete package, Perez has all you could ask for in an F1 driver. He qualifies well, can make the most of the car underneath him, superb skill in wheel-to-wheel situations, as well as this unique ability to conserve tyres and still be quick, an ability that has put him in many of his podium positions and often up to positions where the car under him doesn't deserve to be. Coming into the new regulations in 2022 of course, he has experience of almost ten seasons and multiple car variations in F1, and of course, as we know, the experience can really count in this sport when it's needed.
Could Haas be the next option for Perez? (Haas F1 Team.)
Where could Perez go? Well, early rumours suggested he was in talks with Alfa Romeo to essentially return to the team he made his debut with, but with increasing reports that Kimi Raikkonen will stay on in 2021 and will partner F2 front runner Mick Schumacher next year, this is becoming ever unlikely by the day. The only real option is Haas, who seems tired of its current two drivers, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
This would be the perfect decision for Perez. He would bring much-needed sponsorship for the team in the guise of Mexican telecommunications companies Claro, Telcel and Telmex, he brings experience to the team as well as secrets from his Racing Point days and as a bonus, he would appear back on Ferrari's radar and remind them why they signed him to the young drivers' academy all that time ago. He could also use his strength of the tyres to sneak points for the team and help improve car development in general, something Haas has really struggled with in recent seasons.
Pair Perez with an enthusiastic young driver, such as Robert Shwartzman or Calum Illott and you would have quite the team underneath you. Or even pair him with his old Force India buddy Nico Hulkenberg in the team next year, they always worked well together during their last tenure as teammates, and Haas will remember that. No doubt he is in Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas' phone book.
In reality, and unfortunately, this is a common thing in F1, but it would be a real shame to lose Perez from the sport. He's proven his worthiness on track and his loyalty to a team off it. I do hope we see him on the grid next year because a loss like Perez would leave a big hole in the sport and for some teams, may prove to be a lost opportunity if they don't capitalise on him for next season or beyond.