Not every driver is as lucky as Lewis Hamilton to start his F1 career with a team like McLaren. Not every driver gets a chance to fight for podiums, victories and even the championship in their first season. Conventionally, drivers start their F1 career in a backmarker or a midfielder before making their way to top. We all know that Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso started their career from back of the grid in a Minardi before making their breakthrough with Renault and Red Bull respectively. Sergio Perez, also took the conventional route. He started his F1 career with Sauber in 2011 and then made it to McLaren in 2013. A year later, he's back in the midfield and forced to go through the process all over again. After all Formula 1 drivers come with only one aim - to win championships and only top teams have the financial and technical resources with which drivers can achieve this aim. But having already made his way to top, it would be hard for the Mexican to do it all over again.
Perez's stint at Sauber in Brief
With significant backing from Ferrari and Telmex, Sergio Perez made his Grand Prix debut with Sauber in 2011. At the opening race of the season in Australia, Sergio Perez made his one quality clear from the word 'go' - managing tyres. He made one less stop than anyone else in the field to finish seventh, a result that was later disqualified on technical grounds. A few races later, he crashed heavily during the qualifying session in Monaco, in an accident that put him out of the race. Nevertheless, he finished the season with 14 points, less than half the points of his Japanese teammate Kamui Kobayashi who had one more season in his belt.
But it was Perez's second season that made all the difference. Sauber's 2012 challenger could eke out a longer life from its tyre than its competitors and Perez used this quality to the most to score three superb podiums in the season. These three standout results put him in the spotlight and in the second seat at McLaren.
Move to McLaren - a Hurried Decision by the British outfit
Lewis Hamilton's relationship with McLaren grew bitter during the second half of 2012 season, forcing the Brit to leave the team that had supported him since his teen years. After this announcement, McLaren had to quickly find his replacement - they couldn't wait until November or even December like many of the small teams. So they went for Sergio Perez - a promising young lad who had done well at a midfield team. However, they didn't put him through any of the data analysis they go through while hiring new drivers. They gave too much focus to his fastest lap at Monaco and podium finishes, particularly the one in Italy, at a time when Hamilton's relationship with McLaren and Ron Dennis was at its weakest. They seemed to have ignored the fact that Kamui Kobayashi had scored just six less points than Perez in the same car, even though he had finished on the podium only once. So if one excludes the podium results which were essentially down to strategy, Kobayashi was more consistent of the two.
In 2013, when Sergio Perez started the second phase of his F1 career, his performances weren't up to the expectations of McLaren. That wasn't helped by McLaren themselves not living upto the expectations and producing a car that was only good enough for midfield. The result was that Perez's ''multi-year'' deal came to an end much earlier than most would have expected, including Sergio Perez, who until the Indian Grand Prix thought that his future at the Woking based outfit was safe.
Force India rescues Perez's Career -
After being axed late in the season by McLaren, Perez faced a bleak future. Not many spots were left on the 2014 grid and most teams had presumed that he was not available. Team principal Martin Whitmarsh acknowledged that the team kept Sergio Perez in the dark and it was his duty to find him a seat for next season.
And on December 13, it was confirmed that Sergio Perez will be behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car in 2014. The Mexican was hired by Force India, bringing in a string of comments questioning whether the move was all about money. While Vijay Mallya was adamant that talent was the priority, it would be wrong to say that money was not a consideration. Perez's signing opens up new avenues for Mallya who could expand his liqour business in South America. Add to that, Perez reportedly brings 15 million euros with him, enough to meet the extra cost of 2014 power units.
Teaming up with Hulkenberg - a chance to prove McLaren. Again.
Even though Perez's short term future in Formula 1 is safe, he has to start all over again. He will again have to get those standout results which impressed McLaren in the first place. However, this time those standout results shouldn't simply be down to strategy or managing tyres. He needs to outperform the car and be more consistent - a quality not seen him in his three year F1 career. For this, he'll require a bit more motivation - calls from his team to get his elbows out would surely help.
But a bigger problem stands in his way. He's teamed up with Nico Hulkenberg - a driver who could make or break his F1 career. Hulkenberg is a proven driver and has the capacity to blow Perez apart. But if Perez starts to beat Hulkenberg in qualifying and race consistently, people will reconsider their opinion about the Mexican. In fact, Hulkenberg presents Perez with the best opportunity to prove McLaren that they got rid of the wrong driver.
And if he indeed ups his level in 2014 and gets a top drive, his job won't still be over. The expectations at a top team are much higher than at a midfield and he would have to live up to those expectations. He will have to consistently fight for podiums, victories and championships - after all that's what a driver aim for and that's what teams want from their drivers.
Will Sergio Perez be successful the second time around? Only time will tell. Until then, let us know your thoughts on Perez's F1 career so far and how would he perform against Hulkenberg at Force India.
Read our three part Season Review