Sergio Perez has been quietly effective in his rookie season in F1, doing enough to ensure that the team took up the second year of his contract. Looking closely at it, he has done rather better than that.
He’s outqualified his team mate Kamui Kobayashi on five occasions of the nine that they have been racing together this season, he’s scored points in two races and in only two of his races has he finished lower than the position he started in. Those are pretty reasonable figures for a rookie in F1, but he will want to move forward from there and score more consistent points finishes in the second half of the season. Force India has improved a lot lately and are only nine points behind in the Constructors’ Table. Sauber could do with a step forward in the coming races to stay on terms.
Perez started the season with a top ten finish, only to be disqualified for a bodywork irregularity, but that first race in Australia signalled his and Sauber’s intent as far as race strategy is concerned. The car is gentle on its tyres and this gives them a tactical advantage, allowing them to run different strategies from the midfield cars around them, usually based on long stints in the middle of the race. It’s been very effective and well thought through by James Key and his technical team at Sauber, who have really made the most of strategy planning for this season with the peculiarities of the Pirelli tyres.
The result is that with a car which has qualified in the top ten on only four occasions this season they have come through to score points on nine occasions, amassing 35 points to put them 6th in the constructors’ table.
Perez had been in a good rhythm, outqualifying team mate Kobayashi for the three consecutive races before his serious accident in Monaco, which sidelined him for two races,
“Unfortunately my accident didn’t help at all because I lost some momentum and to get back in the rhythm as a racing driver was difficult after such a big impact with the head,” said the Mexican, when I spoke to him at the recent Hungarian Grand Prix.
Team boss Peter Sauber was very impressed with the way that Perez, as a rookie, dealt with the accident and his comeback from it. He did a solid job to finish 11th in Valencia, his first race back and then had a storming drive to seventh at Silverstone.
“It was a very big accident, could have ended my career there,” said Perez. “I missed two races where the team scored points (Monaco and Montreal), circuits which suited us quite well. I lost some points and some rhythm.”
With a contract in his pocket for 2012, Perez says that he can concentrate on improving many details in the second half of the season, like communication with the team and trying to get the maximum out of all three parts of the race weekend; practice, qualifying and race. One of the tough things to get right as a rookie is putting a complete race weekend together, as Petrov showed last year and Di Resta is showing this year to a lesser extent.
“I think I’ll be a lot stronger next season, not only on the track but off the track too, ” said Perez. “When you come into F1 it’s a different world and as a young driver it takes time to adapt. You have a lot to deal with, F1 is a lot more of everything.”