Sport : F1

Sergio Perez

7th March 2014, 11:49am

Having been earmarked as the man to replace Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, the Mexican hotshot failed to deliver the results expected of him in what was a difficult year for the team and it was announced before the end of the 2013 campaign that his seat would be taken by Kevin Magnussen next season.

Martin Whitmarsh had described his new signing as a "rough diamond" but clearly it was felt the 23-year-old could not be polished into a driver suitable for McLaren. That said the Team Principal did try to help the Mexican find a new seat on the grid after sacking him.

His relative youth belies a strong level of motorsport experience and maturity out of the car. Indeed, Perez has been competing in European racing since 2005 and raced in Formula BMW, A1 GP, Formula Three and the GP2 Series prior to his big break with Sauber in 2011.

His biggest success in international motorsport, in terms of championship position, to date is his second-place finish behind future Williams driver Pastor Maldonado in the 2010 GP2 Series. In all, he won five races and claimed one pole position.

That caught the eye of renowned talent-spotter Peter Sauber who boldly decided to team him up with Kamui Kobayashi at his F1 squad, despite the Japanese himself only having one full F1 season behind him.

Perez, who brought backing from Carlos Slim's Telmex communications company, didn't take long to make his mark on his debut in Australia. Sadly for him, though, his unique one-stopping drive to seventh place went unrewarded after both Sauber cars were later disqualified for infringing technical regulations.

His first official points finish arrived four races later in Spain but misfortune struck at the next round in Monaco when Perez suffered a nasty side-on crash into the harbourside chicane barrier during qualifying. Taken to hospital, he was found to have 'escaped' with concussion and a bruised thigh but as a precaution was still stood down for the remainder of the weekend. Although he returned at the next round in Canada, he felt unwell after practice and the team drafted in Pedro de la Rosa to fill in.

Returning in Valencia, Perez finished seventh at Silverstone before further points finishes in Singapore, Japan and India secure him 15th place in the Drivers' Championship.

Year two would bring far more headlines, however, after Sauber developed a car that was both surprisingly quick and kind on its tyres. Perez brilliantly demonstrated his potential at a rain-hit Malaysian GP when, from ninth on the grid, he adroitly made his through the pack and set off in a thrilling pursuit of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

It seemed inevitable he would overhaul the Spanish star in the closing laps but a small slip coming onto the backstraight - which followed a message from his race engineer to take it easy - meant the fairytale win just eluded him.

Still, both he and Sauber went on to prove that the second place was no flash in the pan. His next points finish, in Canada, was also a podium as another one-stop strategy allowed him to surge through the field again. It was a similar story later in the year at Monza, where Perez passed both Ferraris in the closing laps to finish second to McLaren's Hamilton.

By this time speculation was rife that Ferrari, who had signed the Mexican to their young driver programme upon his arrival in F1, were poised to swoop for 2013. Yet within a couple of weeks McLaren had pounced after learning of Hamilton's defection to Mercedes.

Coincidentally or not, Perez failed to score a further point in the six races after his move was announced, with the Mexican involved in several on-track incidents.

As McLaren struggled with a difficult car in the MP4-28, Perez did as well only finishing in the top five once all season. His relationship with the team appeared strained from the beginning when ahead of the Bahrain GP Martin Whitmarsh criticised his new recruit for not being committed enough on track and fighting hard enough for position. Thus it came as little surprise that Kevin Magnussen was announced as his replacement in the build-up to the U.S. GP.

Perhaps away from the microscope of McLaren, Perez can rediscover the form he showed at Sauber, with Vijay Mallya stating that he hired the Mexican because "Sergio is naturally talented and naturally quick, that was pretty clear when he drove for Sauber," rather than for any commercial reasons.

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