Midseason Report: Grading McLaren's Sergio Perez

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Midseason Report: Grading McLaren's Sergio Perez
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Perez has not been afraid to mix it with the big boys on the track

During this midseason break that seems to have gone on for an eternity now, I’ve been grading drivers out of 10 for their temperament, qualifying and racecraft.

Now it’s the turn of McLaren newbie Sergio Perez, but judging by his latest comments on ESPNF1 it appears he’s done it for me!

I have only done ten races with McLaren and we've had a very difficult couple of races so far, so I think the next ten races will be much better ones. If I had to put a number [out of ten] on myself I would say six or seven because there is good room to improve together with the team. It's been an extremely tough year, my first season with McLaren. It has been extremely difficult to get, first of all, to know the car. Since the first time I drove the car in Jerez to now it has changed completely and every weekend we are doing steps and on Friday we are trying new thing so that every Saturday we start with a new car. I think in general all of my understanding with the team has grown a lot since the start of the season.

So Perez gives himself six or seven out of 10 for the first half of the season. If we’re getting closer to the seven mark then that is no disaster by any means.

After a very impressive 2012 season for Sauber, Perez joined Jenson Button at McLaren with reasonably high expectations after an encouraging preseason of testing. But it soon became apparent after a couple of races that the other top teams had made even further strides forward during the winter.

Perez was 11th in Australia to Button’s ninth but scored his first points for his new team in Malaysia despite a late extra pitstop for new rubber that cost him at least one place. Another 11th in China followed before Perez incurred the wrath of his teammate in a wheel banging battle in Bahrain that saw the Mexican almost force Button off the circuit.

While Button was fuming, Perez was delighted to finish sixth and not seemingly over apologetic afterwards on his team’s press release in insinuating that he was aggressive but fair in the light of no team orders.

Perez and Button have been getting close in more ways than one this season

That was an incredible race - really enjoyable. I have to thank the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team first of all - we've been through some difficult times recently, but they kept on supporting me. All in all, it's been a solid weekend - we got pretty much the maximum from the car, ran a great strategy, looked after the tyres, and scored some very useful points. I guess I was a little aggressive on track today; banging wheels with Jenson was perhaps a little too risky, a little too hard, but the team never came on the radio to tell us to stop racing. There were no team orders. There was a lot of adrenaline from both of us, and Jenson is always a very strong racer, but hopefully we'll help each other a little more in the future. He was calm and friendly after the race, though, which was great; but that isn't surprising because he's a great guy as well as a great driver.

Perez continued the good work in Spain, but this time was told by his team to maintain station behind Button and not attack his teammate as he finished just two seconds adrift in ninth.

Next up, Monaco and more controversy. Perez gained a reputation as an aggressive driver, a risk-taker and an overtaker during his spell at Sauber, and his brush with Button in Bahrain had clearly not fazed him. Having muscled his way past both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button on the tunnel exit, Perez tried the same on Kimi Raikkonen and the two collided, causing Perez’s retirement and a pit stop for the Finn.

While Raikkonen fumed, telling BBC Sport that perhaps someone should "punch him in the face," Perez was again strangely unapologetic in his team’s press release.

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Perez battles against Button in Monaco

That was a real shame - I'd overtaken both Jenson and Fernando there, and Jenson had overtaken me there too, but I couldn't have avoided the crash with Kimi. Of course, any passing manoeuvre at Monaco is risky, but, at the end of the day, you have to leave each other a little room. As a result of our contact, my car's brake ducts were affected and my front brakes overheated - in fact I basically ran out of brakes.

A third 11th place followed in Canada before Perez was one of three massive tyre blow outs at Silverstone. But ninth- and eighth-place finishes in Germany and Hungary respectively means that Perez approaches Belgium in reasonably high spirits.

Does he need to curb his aggressive instincts in the second half of the season and target solid points finishes? I don’t believe so. Racing should be racing and trying to get a young, passionate driver to go against his gut would be a foolish thing to do, and I think McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh knows that.

 

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Sergio’s Midseason Marks

Temperament: 6/10

Qualifying: 6/10

Race craft: 6/10

Summary: I have to agree with Checo’s own assessment. It’s been a first half of ups and downs and solid sixes is a fair reflection of where he is.

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