When Checo joined Sauber in 2011, he started showing talent, where the car was fast enough. He finished his first race in 7th, impressing with tyre conservation skills, as he managed only one pit stop. 2012 was a fantastic year for the young Mexican. He scored his first podium in Malaysia, and came very close to winning that race. His great results continued through the season, and the departure of Lewis Hamilton from McLaren gave him the seat. Many observers were very happy, as he seemed like a future challenger for the title, but something changed.
The first race in Australia, he described as “difficult” as he failed to score points. Round two in Malaysia was the race in which he scored his first points for the team. In Bahrain, we saw Sergio’s aggressive style of driving, which then seemed to be developing. He touched with his team mate Jenson Button on several occasions.
“I've raced with many team-mates over the years and with quite an aggressive team-mate in Lewis, but I'm not used to driving down the straight and then my team-mate coming along and wiggling his wheels at me and banging wheels with me at 300km/h. I've had some tough fights in F1 but not quite as dirty as that. That's something you do in karting and normally you grow out of it but that's obviously not the case with Checo [Pérez]. Soon something serious will happen so he has to calm down. He's extremely quick and he did a great job today but some of it is unnecessary and an issue when you are doing those speeds.” - Jenson Button speaking to ESPN about Perez after the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix
During the Monaco Grand Prix, we witnessed even more aggressive overtakes from the young Mexican. He liked to dive down the inside of the chicane to gain places, which worked very well when he made his first move, on his team mate. We were all very impressed, but things started to get difficult. He attempted to do the same with Fernando Alonso, but the Spaniard was left very little space and cut across the chicane, regaining his place. The McLaren driver waved his arm in frustration, as he saw the Ferrari regain its place. The real trouble began with Kimi Raikkonen. As Checo got close to the gearbox of the Lotus, Kimi moved in to block him, causing himself to cut across the chicane. On the next lap, he moved in even further, leaving no space for Perez who crashed into the barrier and retired. Raikkonen didn’t escape damage, as he was left with a rear puncture. He commented to his engineer “That f*cking idiot! I wanna hit him when I see him!”.
His best result for the team was in India, scoring 5th place. After the season, he announced he would leave McLaren and a month later, he announced a deal with Force India.
And here we are now, after Canada, where Perez made a late defensive move on Felipe Massa, causing a 27G crash! The Mexican received a 5 place grid penalty for the next race in Austria. He showed a lack of imagination, and hopefully, will think twice before he tries to defend himself so late next time. Niki Lauda once said, in an interview about Rush, commenting on James Hunt: “We respected each other very much because in the old days, to drive 300km/h side by side towards a corner, if someone makes a mistake, one or both are killed.”
The crash during the Canadian GP was quite similar to the situation described by Lauda. If safety standards hadn’t improved, it would be likely that both would suffer severe injuries, or even death.
Meanwhile, Force India and Perez continue to voice their defence, and claim that it was Massa who crashed into Perez.
Felipe Massa: "I talked to him at the medical centre. I was so disappointed with him, I said that he needs to learn. I wanted him to put himself in my place, because I had a huge crash and honestly I thought it was going to hurt. It's not the first time that he turned into somebody under braking. He did this many times. He didn't say anything, he just turned and left. I hope he learns. We are doing around 300km/h there. With another car in front it could have been a very serious accident. We've had the rules for a few years that when one car is up the side the other cannot move anymore. He just move and we touched. It's dangerous. For me five places is not enough. He was dangerous. We could have crashed into [Sebastian] Vettel."
Many drivers consider Perez as an aggressive driver, who always wants to win. We will see if he improves in the future, but let’s hope that he gets back to his more controlled, and talented personality that we saw with Sauber.
Written by: Jakub Kot