Formula 1

Sergio Perez admits frustration at McLaren

Is Perez still a star of the future? (©GettyImages)
Is Perez still a star of the future? (©GettyImages).

Sergio Perez has admitted his frustrations over the timing of his move to McLaren last year.

After impressing throughout 2012, the Mexican was drafted in to replace Lewis Hamilton, following his move to Mercedes, as three podiums during the previous year had given Perez the tag as the 'next big thing'.

From pay driver to rising star

Prior to showing his abilities with Sauber in 2012, most had dubbed Perez with the same 'pay driver' tab that current drivers like Pastor Maldonado and Max Chilton currently own, an indeed his millions in backing from Telmex and other Mexican companies were a huge boost, but it was his driving that began to do the talking when given a good enough car.

As well as having the backing, Perez was also a member of Ferrari's young driver academy, and at the time was considered to be the best talent from that group of drivers.

Ironically it was a battle against his stable team that announced Perez on the F1 stage as he really should have beaten Fernando Alonso to win the rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.

A late mistake would ultimately result in him finishing second, but two more podiums in Canada and Italy, again in plain view of Ferrari bosses, had him touted as the man to replace the under-performing Felipe Massa.

McLaren capitalise on dithering Ferrari

Ultimately, however, it was Ferrari's reluctance to promote its young driver into a race seat that led to McLaren snapping up Perez following Hamilton's announcement he was off to Mercedes.

While some were sceptical of McLaren's decision the man being deemed as a future world champion was now, as it seemed, heading to the top.

McLaren flop

However, his move to the Woking team would coincide with their worst year in decades as the 'radical' MP4-28 flopped and the team failed to score a single podium all year.

Early in the year Perez failed to match the expectations most had had and, despite improvements and later beating his then team-mate Jenson Button quite consistently towards the end of the year, at the penultimate race in Abu Dhabi it was confirmed he would replaced by then Formula Renault 3.5 champion and member of McLaren's young driver program Kevin Magnussen.

That as not to say Checo, as he is known, did not make some impression during his time with the team, his aggression became something of a trademark both positively and negatively as he enjoyed some good battles throughout the year but also got involved in several incidents.

Force India calling

With his future uncertain, it was Force India who took advantage of Perez's McLaren misfortune and drafted the Mexican in alongside Nico Hulkenberg.

So far his year has been mixed after being put largely in the shade by his equally highly-rated German team-mate yet it was Perez in the right place at the right time to claim Force India's only podium of the year as he finished third in Bahrain.

Bad timing

Perez has been reluctant to speak out about his time at McLaren since making the switch, however, recent comments by Force India's deputy team boss Bob Fernley suggested he believes McLaren undervalued Perez during his time at Woking.

"I think that's a question for them," he told Autosport when asked about Fernley's comments.

"I'm very happy here [at Force India], very comfortable, very motivated as well.

"When you have a car in which you can show your potential weekend after weekend, it just puts you on another level as a driver.

"I didn't find that at McLaren, because of the difficult season we had.

"I probably arrived at the worst possible moment."

Poor behaviour

The Mexican then admitted that the disappointment of realising his ambitions when joining McLaren would not be met that, that also had a detrimental affect on his psyche.

"I didn't act in the best possible way because I was really frustrated," Perez added.

"One of the mistakes I made was frustrating myself rather than taking the best out of the situation.

"When I went into McLaren I was expecting to fight for the title and was really, really hungry.

"Then, I realised that I was doing even worse than when I was at Sauber.

Checo would admit the car he was given was the worst of his F1 career to date but in reflection realised the experience had been positive in some ways.

"It was difficult for me at McLaren, it hurt me a lot, but I learnt a lot [and] I'm sure that it will help me a lot in my [future] career."

Still one for the future?

His subsequent difficult year at McLaren allied to his relatively poor performances versus Nico Hulkenberg at Force India have called into question just if Sergio Perez is still the star for the future many believed he was.

There is no doubt that just when Perez seemed to be cresting the highest wave of his racing career the water disappeared from under him, and getting over the disappointment of that will still be part of thoughts now, but now realising what Force India can offer him and having the chance to learn against someone like Hulkenberg, for me, means the star over Checo still shines very bright indeed.

His rise to the top was very fast and perhaps, given Ferrari's approach, a little too fast, but Perez is still a very young talent among the next generation of racers that includes Daniel Ricciardo, Jules Bianchi, Romain Grosjean and the like.

For a driver who enjoyed a good level of success so soon in his F1 career, the McLaren experience, albeit frustrating, can help keep Perez grounded and then when his next chance comes, and there will be another chance, he will be in a much better mindset to take full advantage of that opportunity.

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