Although Sergio Perez is only four races into his career with McLaren, the Mexican sensation has certainly made his mark in the team. After a slightly uncompetitive start to the season, which prompted McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh to urge him to “toughen up”, Perez has certainly taken the fight to his British team-mate.
During the Bahrain Grand Prix last time out, the 23-year-old battled hard during the race with former World Champion and McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. The duo even touched whilst jostling for position, as Jenson Button requested that his team “calm him down” with a fear that his overzealous behavior reminiscent of his Sauber-days would see the two of them embarrassingly take each other out of the race. Eventually Sergio Perez out-raced Jenson Button by finishing 6th, whereas Jenson Button could only manage 10th.
Despite being told to “toughen up” after a slightly disappointing opening few races for the Woking-based outfit, Sergio Perez’s feisty display of driving around the Bahrain International Circuit was met with mixed opinions within the McLaren camp. Admittedly Martin Whitmarsh was stuck between a rock and a hard place, as he was against issuing team orders instructing to duo to behave themselves, yet was naturally negative towards Perez’s minor collision with the rear of his team-mate. Jenson Button, on the other hand, slated his new team-mate, stating that his aggressive driving at Bahrain was dangerous.
This conundrum for Sergio Perez and McLaren leaves the Mexican driver still striving for the right balance within the team. Admittedly his start to the season was highly uncompetitive for a McLaren driver, with saw him finish towards the midfield in the opening three races. However, in Bahrain we were treated to the Sergio Perez of old as he fought relentlessly for position against not only the likes of Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg but also his own team-mate. For a team such as McLaren, with a colorful history of team-mate feuds, such close and aggressive racing is unheard of within the Woking-based outfit.
Although opinions were varied with regards to Sergio Perez’s behavior during the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Mexican driver felt he had finally silenced his many critics. After being confirmed as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement within the Woking-based outfit, many believed Martin Whitmarsh had made a great mistake in signing Sergio Perez. Initially it was expected that either Paul di Resta or even Nico Hulkenberg would be signed to replace the 2008 World Champion, but eventually the Sauber driver was given the nod.
With McLaren’s MP4-28 machine yielding highly uncompetitive results during the first three races of the new season, many of Sergio Perez’s critics up and down the paddock felt that their criticisms of him were being justified as he struggled to progress beyond Q2 during qualifying and only finished in the points on one occasion. However, his display of driving during the Bahrain Grand Prix showed that the Mexican driver has lost none of his sensational skills that made him such hot property with Sauber last season.
However, with Sergio Perez clearly still striving to find the right balance between being too conservative and too aggressive, expect an interesting battle within the McLaren camp for the majority of the season as the Woking-based duo continue to battle for supremacy. Although it has been widely reported that Sergio Perez has apologized to Jenson Button for his aggressiveness during the Bahrain Grand Prix, it has been made abundantly clear that the 23-year-old Mexican will not shy away from battling as hard with his team-mate as with any other driver on the grid…surely this is why McLaren signed him!
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