PEREZ AT MCLAREN
Andre w Ferraro/LAT
Carlos Slim Domit, the son of Mexico’s
telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim,
had been pushing McLaren for several
months to take Perez, which opens up the
potential for investment if the team’s
Vodafone partnership ends this year.
Still, there was widespread surprise when
the Perez deal was announced. The man
himself admits that, having been part of the
Ferrari Driver Academy for two years and
been touted as a potential replacement
for Felipe Massa, it is a little strange to
find himself now in a chrome-colored
machine. With the McLaren announcement
coinciding with a run of on-track errors that
perhaps cost Sauber a lucrative fifth place
in the constructors’ championship, there
were fears the deal had gone to his head.
But Perez says he understands the need for
an altered approach now. At times last year,
his passing maneuvers were all-or-nothing,
with predictably mixed results.
“The position is very different now,” he
states. “At Sauber, you take a lot more risks
in an overtake; you can risk everything.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
At McLaren, it’s different.”
But the first difference that will have
hit Perez is that the demands on his time
off-track have increased substantially.
Both Hamilton and Button struggled with
the number of McLaren PR days, and the
new boy is already being worked a lot
harder than he was at Sauber. As for the
backward cap, sunglasses and untucked
shirt he previously sported, that’s not
quite the image that his new, very
“corporate” employer is looking for.
That, however, is a cosmetic change
and easily made. It’s Perez’s attitude that
will likely define him at McLaren. At
Sauber, some found he became a little
arrogant and uncooperative, something
McLaren will not tolerate. Combine that
with the fact that the team has a history
of edgy relationships with certain drivers
(Hamilton, Juan Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen)
and there’s a recipe for potential trouble.
Whatever the doubts some hold about
Sergio Perez’s ultimate potential, the
stats show he’s been on a strong upward
trend over his first two F1 seasons.
Best result: 7th (British GP)
Best result: 2nd (Malaysian, RIGHT, and Italian GPs)
14 16th overall
66 10th overall
“At Sauber, you take a lot more
risks in an overtake. You can risk
everything. At McLaren, it’s different”
(TOP RIGHT) Perez
has told the media
Button is feasible.
Bigger picture, in
RIGHT), both have a
car capable of
challenging for the
Alternatively, it might be that Perez is a
young, very talented and confident guy
who just needs to spend a little time in the
McLaren environment in order to mature.
During the honeymoon period in testing,
things went very well on that score.
Nonetheless, we await real proof that
Perez is capable of ticking all the boxes
demanded of a typical McLaren driver. He
has to emerge as a consistent winner while
satisfying the corporate demands. It’s not
easy, especially when partnering Button,
perhaps the defining McLaren driver of
the 21st century. Jenson hasn’t won a
title for McLaren, but he has consistently
notched up race victories, turned his easy,
relaxed charm on the people that matter
44 SPRING 2013