Around two years ago, Sergio Perez podiums were occurring only very occasionally, sometimes when the car was not capable of doing so, but a lack of qualifying speed and consistency always left doubts over just how good the Mexican was. Since then, Perez has upped his game drastically – especially in terms of delivering strong results consistently. This has put him (quite rightly) in the frame for a possible Ferrari drive for 2017, just how he was four years ago when he was a junior driver of theirs. Perez has proved his doubters, of which this writer is one, very much wrong.
Sergio Perez Podiums Proving Doubters Wrong
Perez joined Force India off the back of a woeful time at McLaren back in 2013, where he was criticised by multiple World Champions for his over-aggressive nature on the circuit. Since he joined Force India, he has shown gradual progress in terms of his qualifying speed and he has had strong runs of points finishes. In fact, last time out in Azerbaijan, Perez achieved his best result in qualifying – second place, albeit not starting from that position after damaging his gearbox after a crash in practice. He has also had four third-place finishes since the start of 2014, whilst team mate Nico Hulkenberg – who is rated very highly, has amassed just four fifth-place finishes in that time.
As of the eighth round of the championship in 2016, Perez has outqualified Hulkenberg five times of eight, has finished ahead three times of the six occasions both cars have finished, has nearly twice as many points, and has been ahead on the track for 58% of the racing laps.
Reasons for the Upturn
So what has contributed to the upturn in form? In short: Perez has upped his game. Perez was slammed earlier in his career for being “lazy”, “arrogant” and “unprofessional”, notably during his time in the lower categories and at his time with McLaren. However since he has joined Force India it appears that those terms can no longer be used to describe the Mexican given his performances over the last 24 months or so.
A driver like Perez, who is able to take his chances and grab a podium when an opportunity arises, will be invaluable to Force India, especially if he is able to keep producing these results. He has improved his qualifying to a level which is not amongst the top calibre, but is now very solid. He has improved his consistency to a level where he is now delivering points consistently. He has not forgotten how to make alternate strategies work for him, and ultimately he is almost always there when the car is thereabouts.
Compared to Hulkenberg
In the same space of time Hulkenberg has not shown the same level of progress through his career. He has not finished in the top five in a F1 race since the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, and almost seems a bit distracted at times by the World Endurance Championship, where he has made two starts (with a win at the all-important 24 Hours of Le Mans) with Porsche’s LMP1 team, and has been tipped to make a switch full-time into that category. Hulkenberg has also been involved in unnecessary incidents roughly as often as Perez during their time as team mates, but has not been delivering the podiums. It does not make for good reading for a driver rated so highly by many people.
Ultimately Perez has finally cemented himself as a fine driver in F1. It was clear that his jump to a team like McLaren came far too soon, but he was fortunate enough to be able to switch to a team like Force India and progress into a very solid driver. Perez does deserve a seat with a better team, but it seems that for the time being, it is unlikely to be Ferrari.