What has Sergio Perez got to do to take the next step in his career?
The Formula One grid never has enough space for all of the incredibly talented drivers to fulfil their potential. Sergio Perez is one such driver who I feel is capable of achieving much more than he has so far. Since his debut, he has showcased a unique feel for the state of his car and tyres. Perez was one of the few who could really maximise the performance of the highly degradable Pirelli tyres.
His exploits during his first two years at Sauber earned him a dream drive with McLaren. The timing of his move was unfortunate, however, as the McLaren team were beginning to show signs of their current downturn in form. Sergio’s lack of experience showed at times, and he was dropped after one season.
An established number 1 driver
Since then, ‘Checo’ has played an important role in the Force India team. Together with Nico Hulkenberg, he has formed a seriously strong partnership and carried the team to fourth in the constructors’ championship. Force India have always been a team punching way above their weight, especially after they secured Mercedes power for their cars. The team have been solid point scorers for several years now.
Now that Hulkenberg has moved on to Renault, Perez has assumed the position of top driver at Force India. With team mate Esteban Ocon making his full season debut, Sergio is vastly more experienced. This season however, could be the kind of experience he needs to progress his career. He ended last season 7th in the Drivers’ championship and established himself as ‘best of the rest’. But for now, there is absolutely nowhere else for him to go. That is as good as it will get as long as he remains shut out of the top three teams.
He is going to need to prove to those three team leaders that he has matured since his time at McLaren. This season is the perfect opportunity for Perez to lead the team and beat Ocon, the man on Mercedes’ radar. A success for Force India will be to hold on to their Fourth place. There is little chance of them challenging the established lead group, but there will be stiff opposition from the likes of McLaren who will be expecting an upturn in their own performance. The team will be relying on Perez to bring the team consistent results.
Limited options for progression?
At the age of 27, Checo will be arriving at the peak of his career any time now. It is time for him to hit the heights, he is clearly capable of achieving so much more. I just don’t see where a seat with a top team is going to come from. Mercedes have got a long list of junior drivers, the likes of Wehrlein and Ocon, to call upon and Red Bull have got the strongest line-up in Formula One right now with Ricciardo and Verstappen.
Ferrari could be an option. Perez was once a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy before he joined McLaren, so there will be connections there. And there are no guarantees that Ferrari drivers Raikkonen and Vettel will be in the car next year. Raikkonen’s rolling contract remains a yearly deal, while Seb’s antics last year made him less than popular with team principal Arrivabene. The problem for Perez is that there is a queue of drivers waiting for a drive with the Prancing Horse.
I would place Sergio Perez in a group of drivers that sit just behind the best in the world. Along with Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg. Two other drivers who have come oh so close to sitting inside a winning car. All three of these guys are now positioned as leaders within their own teams. It will be interesting to see which one comes out on top.
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