Even in the year 2020 Sergio Perez rode a roller coaster.
Sunday’s victory is the first of 190 attempts in F1, a new dubious record, but he prefers not to win at all.
It’s also remarkable for such a talented person. Perez has long been described as one of the stars of the unrealized F1, and it was the perfect exclamation point in a career that, until Sunday, was clearly lacking.
However, after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on day 13 he will be the winner. December may not even be a career in Formula 1. Before the victory, the most remarkable moments of his year were two missed matches by KOVID-19 and his employer’s breach of contract.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Sergio Perez on the podium after his first victory in Formula 1. Mario Rienzi – Formula 1/Formula 1 on Getty Images.
Look at the year of Perez and how his unlikely victory came about.
Perez was banned from both races at Silverstone this summer – the British Grand Prix and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Birthday, which took place the following weekend – after he tested positive for VIDOC-19. He was the first Formula 1 driver to pass the positive test and therefore missed the race.
Perez surprised Covid on a trip to Mexico to visit his mother, who was hospitalized after the accident. He insisted that all necessary protocols and security measures established by the team and the local authorities were respected, including chartering a private jet for his transatlantic flight.
If the return journey was understandable from a personal point of view, from the point of view of the race, it was a bitter pill to swallow. At this point in the season, Racing Point has clearly established itself as the third best team on the grid and could fight for the podium as Mercedes or Max Verstappen make a mistake.
Perez’s opponent, Niko Hülkenberg, did an admirable job and qualified third in the second race, but he eventually lost the race and finished seventh. Given Hülkenberg’s limited experience with the car, it would be fair to ask what Perez would achieve if he were to race instead.
Despite these two missed races, Perez is currently fourth in the 125 point championship. Last but not least, he underlines his good performance in the races in which he participated this year.
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Fault! The file name is not specified. Sergio Perez has retired unconditionally from Racing Point after seven years with the team and the two remaining contracts. Joao Beato/Bul on Getty Images
In August, Racing Point announced that Perez would leave the team at the end of the year to be replaced by Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari. Perez came this season confident that the contract he signed with the team (which lasted until 2022) would be executed, but Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll had other ideas.
Although it’s never pleasant to be left out of the team, it seemed particularly cruel to Perez. Racing Point – which next year will be Aston Martin – not only looks very competitive in the coming years, but Perez’s history with the team has led many people to believe he deserves better.
In 2018, the Mexican filed a lawsuit that was disturbed by the former owner of Vijay Mallya, allowing him to join the administration and was bought out by a consortium of investors led by Stroll. It is no exaggeration to say that Perez played a key role in saving the team from ruin.
Perez himself mentioned it a week after Vettel’s news.
It hurts a little because I have bet on the team in very difficult times; we have managed to overcome the obstacles and I am very proud to have kept some of my teammates, he said.
The solution clearly didn’t suit Perez, but he reacted like an exemplary professional and constantly underlined his love for the team and his determination to reach the highest level. Under the circumstances, Perez could be forgiven for making things a lot more uncomfortable for Stroll and Racing Point, and for not saying much about his character and true love for the team.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that Perez’s form has been excellent since the decision. After the Belgian Grand Prix he finished in the top ten, except for one race – when his bike broke down four laps before the Bahrain Grand Prix last week, where he finished third.
At the Imola Emilia Romagna Grand Prix a late decision to make a pit stop for a safe car cost him a certain podium place. He finished second in the Turkish Grand Prix after a great performance in a changing environment, and without Lewis Hamilton’s great performance for him Perez could have won the race in Istanbul.
Victory of the virgin
Fault! The file name is not specified. Tolga Bozoglu – Pool/Getty pictures
In the first round of the Sakhir Grand Prix it seemed that the race would end in another disappointing race. What if I did? From a promising fifth place and after slipping into the third or fourth corner, he was torn in the depths by the collision with Charles Leclercerc.
An engine failure seven days earlier had cost him a well-deserved third place. His reaction to this failure was another performance by his hero – Perez soon pointed to Romain Groshzhan’s miraculous escape from hell at the beginning of the event, which put his own misfortune in perspective.
Perez later admitted on Sunday that he had cursed his accident at the opening of the second event in Bahrain. The padlock under the first safety car left his car with strong vibrations, so he asked the team if it was wise to make a backup. They didn’t, and Perez stormed the field.
As so often in modern Formula 1, it seemed that his price would be the best of all for the Mercedes? … …until the world champions threw the ball. In the second safety car, Perez and Racing Point didn’t make the same mistake as Imola, and the Mexican driver stayed on old tyres to take the lead.
I think after what happened at Imola, when we made the wrong choice under the security machine, we knew what we wanted to do here, Perez said. We stayed away. We were pretty sure I could restart on [the tyres] and finish at a good pace.
The decision was confirmed. When the flat tire ended George Russell’s storm, all Perez had to do was bring him home. Somehow, after a career that didn’t go in the right direction for Perez, everything worked perfectly for him.
It was a popular and amazing victory.
Like another winner of 2020, Pierre Gasly in Monza, Perez, after the champagne was pulverized, sat on the highest step of the podium, stunned, only to seize the moment.
What happens then?
It should be noted that Perez still has not conquered a place in next season’s races, and Sunday’s victory does not seem to have changed much.
The future of Alex Albon is not yet clear and Red Bull will make a decision at the end of the season at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but there is little sign that the former world champions tend towards Perez. Red Bull cancelled Christian Horner’s involvement in the media after the race for the sake of convenience, so he wouldn’t have to face the inevitable questions about the reasons for this decision.
Even on Sunday night, Perez said that his most likely option was to take a vacation and return to Formula One with another team in 2022. Red Bull seems to be loyal to Albon, despite his apparent inability to withstand pressure from Max Verstappen’s team, and if this decision were taken it would mean that the two winners of the race would be lost to Perez and Gasli, who win for the first time to keep their guns and keep Albon in the team.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Alex Albon should save the place of Red Bull despite the difficult season 2020. BRYN LENNON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.
What does that mean for Perez? It seems that the Mexican rider doesn’t have much sense in the other races yet. He suggested that during his sabbatical he could decide that he had finished the race, which would be a shame after such a large choice of uniforms in recent months.
In his speech on Sunday evening, he seemed happy with what would follow.
I was always talking about the 22nd. He said I was taking risks at this point in my career. You never know what will happen if I feel like coming back or if I decide to quit in the course of this year.
After today, after the last few races, I’m so determined to be here. It’s either next year or next year. I already have some good options for the 22nd. Of course, my best option is to continue, but if I have to stop it, it’s not a disaster, I can go back.
It seems that right after the best result of his career, Perez could find himself in such an uncertain situation. Except on Sunday, the stars never lined up in front of him during his ten years in F1.
If it had been necessary, the victory of Perez in the Sakhir Grand Prix could have been a reminder of the F1 talent that has been stuck in the middle of the field for seven years, and how much he deserves a car to prove his talent on a more regular basis. It remains to be seen if he’ll ever get that car or if he’ll get the chance.
Whatever happens, Perez has shown what a victory it will be for an F1 team. In 2021 several teams chose riders who were less talented than him.
If Abu Dhabi is his last participation in Formula 1, he can say that he will start as a Grand Prix winner. It’s the least the driver deserves for his skills.
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