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Perez makes the most of Sauber’s alternative thinking
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Aug 2011   |  3:41 pm GMT  |  70 comments

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.”

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  1. Riccardo Consulini says:

    Perez has put in some really strong performances so far. I think he is one of the stars of the future, alongside Vettel and Di Resta.

    1. Santiago says:

      I agree, but Vettel is already a big star.. and I trust Kobayashi to be wdc someday as well..

      1. Jack says:

        na i really doubt Kobayashi will ever be wdc, or even drive for one of the top 3 teams. The way f1 seems to have worked in recent years (Brawn’s 09 season aside) makes me think the next few champions will be one of Vettel, Alonso and Schumacher, and then it’ll be somebody who’s not currently in the sport. Maybe Ricciardo or Bianchi or somebody like that. Although, i would LOVE to see either of the current Sauber duo winning races regularly

      2. Randy Torres says:

        Schumacher really? Interesting that you leave out Hamilton especially considering that Mercedes has a a fairly pedestrian car.

      3. DJR says:

        Schumacher WDC in 2012? Mate I think your dreaming, drunk or both lol.

      4. Steve says:

        Schumacher is going to win a WC?! No way! LOL Let me have some of what you’re smoking, must be good!

      5. Steven Boyd says:

        Well, Schumacher just confirmed that the car would not be challenging for the title next year either, even with him driving it.

        This guy is living in his own head, putting Schumacher ahead of Hamilton next year – and I’m an Alonso fan; don’t let emotion or bias get in the way of fact, Hamilton will be competitive, and a challenger again when he gets his head sorted out. It is only the manner in which he got to F1 that is his biggest issue now, and not letting his head get into the right place – entitlement never did anyone any good…

        Perez will end up at Ferrari, he’s got the chops. Di Resta will move up – Mercedes I bet.

  2. Dan says:

    I think this chap has got Aloneo’s number 2 written all over him for the 2013 season.

    1. Mark in Australia says:

      Precisely Dan, look out Mr Massa… Your understudy has most certainly arrived!!!

      For me, Sergio is the most complete rookie for quite a long time. To early to tout him as a future world drivers champion, but he will be in the mix for serious points and race wins in the next 2-3 years for sure.

    2. Pete S. says:

      Me thinks this would be a good combo. Hopefully 2013 is the year.

    3. AndyK says:

      I don’t think a man of this calibre will give any consideration to being anybodies #2.. If you’ll pardon the expression!!

    4. Steve says:

      Why would he go to a team that clearly has #1s and #2 drivers? I think he would be better off somewhere like McLaren, where they let the drivers race, or even Merc. Going to Ferrari when Alonso is there is a bad career move for any driver!

      1. Alan says:

        Unless he beats him, as Lewis proved.

        There is the key, if Massa’s replacement is faster than Alonso we will have a shed load of entertainment off the track. Unlike Renault, Ferrari can screw together 2 cars and he does not have a friendly manager running it all his way there.

      2. Steve says:

        LOL Massa’s replacement will NEVER be faster than Alonso, he will be asked to move over, Ferrari has a history of this. Did it to Rubens, did to Massa (with Kimi and Alonso), did it to Kimi(with Massa). As long as Alonso is at Ferrari, nobody will be faster than him. Lewis proved it at McLaren, but only because McLaren has a history of letting drivers race, as long as either driver can win any race they let them race. IMO they didnt do it with Mika and Coulthard because Mika was clearly faster.

  3. irish con says:

    been quite impressed with perez thus year. i thought it was a year to soon for him but he has proved me wrong. like peter sauber’s way of thinking to give youth a chance. they are probably my favourite 2nd team.

    1. Blade Runner says:

      Yes he has been quite impressive for a rookie but I don’t get the feeling that he is the next Vettel or Alonso as some others are suggesting on here.

      Another driver like DC OR Massa? as in, excellent wing man/No.2 for a top team.

      No shame in that in my opinion – not everybody can be the world champion. Good money too if you can get it!

      1. irish con says:

        yeah i agree he doesnt appear to be of the very top class but i think i will judge him more in a year or 2. he was looking pretty good around monaco until his crash and monaco is a place to prove yourself. i never thought jenson was as good as he has proved but he still won a title even tho he isnt top top class either.

      2. unoc12 says:

        I think judging the future of a guy like Perez after 9 or so races is quite pathetic.

        Same for those who saw two 10ths in his first two races and thought… Di Resta, future champion.

        He is growing with each weekend and improving, and so is Kobayashi who until the start of last year only had 2 races under his belt.

        I think at this point, if he continues to improve he could definately be a WDC someday, if he suddenly stops then no, we don’t know what will happen for sure and that’s the way it is.

        Drivers aren’t just as they are when they start. Some are, but most aren’t. I’m guessing that Perez is the later.

        That beind said Peter Sauber is a guy who knows his rookies and consistantly picks the top ones, guys like Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica and Vettel have all started in his team in the last decade.

        Out of them, Raikkonen is a champion easily, Vettel is too, Massa nearly did it and Kubica hasn’t really had a chance.

        Since both of Sauber’s drivers are growing it’s hard to say who how fast they are improving, but if they weren’t then Sauber wouldn’t keep them any more and he has decided to do so, which is about the best job reference they can get.

      3. Peter C says:

        The cult of personality. It’s the public that must make driver’s lives hell, except for the top half dozen who encourage & actively seek the publicity.
        For a rookie to be discussed as a ‘Future World Champion is way, way too early & reminds me of something Simon Cowell dreamt up.
        The lad is good, let’s hope he keeps it up & improves with time but replace Massa > WDC > etc, etc.?

        Just wait a bit…….

  4. jez says:

    If Carlos Slim/ Telmex become the owners of his team, Perez will be in a perfect position to make the big time…

    1. CanadaGP says:

      They are already “owners” of Sauber since they are by far the biggest sponsor and call the shots. Unfortunately, the only way young drivers can make it big time is to get a drive with the big 3 plus Merc and Renault teams. When was the last time a car not from these 5 won a GP? (I consider Brawn to be the same as Merc) Vettel’s win in a TR in 08? Would be nice if by some miracle a mid-field team somehow ends up winning a GP one of these days.

      1. Tom in adelaide says:

        And how did Red Bull become one of the big 3?

      2. unoc12 says:

        Agree. CanadaGP doesn’t sound like he’s watched F1 for more than the past 2.5 years or at least has any knowledge of more than the past 2.5 years.

        in 2008 Red Bull Racing hadn’t won a GP. Red Bull Technology had.. but thats another story.

        The big 3 teams were Williams, Ferrari and McLaren from the late 90′s through till early-mid 00′s.

        In the mid 90′s it was Williams and Benetton.

        05-6 you would be talking about Renault Ferrari and McLaren. 07-08 similiar. 09 Red Bull Ferrari McLaren Brawn 10-11 Red Bull McLaren Ferrari wirh an emphesis on Red Bull.

        Mercedes only came in to that top category to show off after 09, before that 08 and 07 were horrible cars.
        Red Bull have taken two drivers with relitively little to their name and given them race winning cars.

        And to answer your question, the last time a driver won a race in a none top car would be Webber and Vettel in early 09 when people didn’t think much of Red Bull. And Brawn as well.

        THen add in Sauber

      3. CanadaGP says:

        You’re a genius unoc12. I’ve been watching F1 since the 1960s, seems like you only started 3 decades after me. I am talking about the Big 3 today since the topic is about Perez hitting the big time w/c does not apply to previous years.

      4. jez says:

        If Telmex/ Carlos Slim actually buy the team it will be a very different operation. They have vast financial resources, and huge motorsports experience with their participation in GP2, Nascar plus Sauber.

        Red Bull were nowhere three years ago. OK it will be difficult to find another Adrian Newey, but perhaps not impossible.

        A Mexican team, a Mexican driver and a Mexican GP? WOW!

      5. Martin says:

        Those wins are pretty rare. Fisichella in the Jordan in 2003, Panis in the Ligier in 1996 and Herbert in the Stewart in 1999 come to mind. All three were rain affected. The problem is that now there isn’t really a wet set-up. The mechanical set up doesn’t change and there is only a slight change to the aero, so the only way for a small team to gain much ground is to gamble on being on different tyres.

        The mid to low downforce tracks, requiring high aero efficiency and strong engines bring some different results, such as Montoya in the Williams era and Berger at Hochemheim in 1994 and 1997, and the Force Indias in 2009. These days these tracks probably just penalise the cars with Renault engines, so the favourites become McLaren and Ferrari.

        It is still one of the top four teams, but a slightly outside result could be Nico Rosberg at Monza. Mercedes has spent all season at or near the top of the speed traps. The car lacks nothing in KERS or the engine and the team seems to think that it is getting better at managing the rear tyres. Mercedes could write off Spa as being to downforce dependent to win and focus its aero efforts on a Monza set up, a bit as Ferrari did last year. At least with the testing ban there is the opportunity for the big teams to get it wrong, as Ferrari did at Spa in 2010 and McLaren at Monza.

        Cheers,

        Martin

  5. Nando says:

    Martin Brundle and DC have frequently commented that they think Sauber could be finishing higher with more conventional strategies.
    You often see the Sauber’s multiple seconds of the pace for more than five laps. Just seem to be slightly inflexible at times.

    1. Martin says:

      Unless the cars are finishing the race with excess tyre performance on the final set of tyres, then I’d suggest that Martin and David are wrong.

      By saving a stop Sauber has about 18 seconds of credit that it has to manage over the race.

      Track evolution will be a bit of a guess and this will contribute to when the stops are planned. If the tyres are fading earlier than expected, then unless the other compound works much better then the stop saving strategy is likely to fail, so stopping earlier will just result in an even worse result at the end of the race.

      To run the same number of stop raises the question, how do you gain track position? By being light on its tyres, I suspect the undercut strategy is less likely to be successful.

      Cheers,

      Martin

  6. Nathan says:

    Surely, James, you realise that qualifying is completely irrelevant in 2011.

    1. irish con says:

      thats nonsense nathan. qualifying while not as important as the past few years in still very important. if you dont qualify well you run behind slower cars and when behind cars the tyres overheat quite easily. also look at alonso in hungary. his race was wrecked by starting lower down and then getting stuck in traffic.

      1. Martin says:

        There is another point too that relates to qualifying – out-lap pace and the ability to perform the undercut. Rosberg in China was the extreme case. I suspect that Sauber would not be good at this with its performance.

        Qualifying is still vital if you are running the same strategy, including the number of saved tyres. Saving tyres has proven to be very beneficial for some driver in some races, but it is not universal – from memory Force India has not made it work at all.

  7. Joel Sciamma says:

    Very impressed with Sergio’s approach to his racing and his deportment generally. Like Di Resta, he will be a solid F1 presence in the years to come and I look forward to seeing both of them further up the grid.

  8. ronmon says:

    I would not be surprised to see him in a bright red car in 2013. If he doesn’t already speak Italian, he might want to learn.

  9. Casimir says:

    I’ve been moderately impressed with Perez. He hasn’t attracted a lot of attention, a point in his favour really, as I am not interested in F1 driver’s capabilities as intellectuals or social commentators (just do your job and drive).

    He’s giving Kobayashi a run for his money, and Kobayashi generates volumes more press than him. Kobayashi is flash, but his qualifying is… I’d say abysmal, but that might be harsh.

    This pairing feels very much like Heidfeld and Kubica at BMW. Kubica builds a huge reputation, but Heidfeld manages to score more points during their partnership. Perez hasn’t done so yet, but time will tell.

  10. Sergio says:

    A serious contender for the World Championship in the next future. I ranked him after Alonso and Kubica and better than Hamilton and Vettel.

    1. Pete S. says:

      Don’t think that you’ll get a ton of people to agree with you on that :(

      1. DJR says:

        I think this is THE Sergio Perez bigging himself up here, and saying he wants to drive for either Ferrari or Renault after Sauber :p

      2. Pete S. says:

        He’s being brought up by the Ferrari Academy.
        I’m sure (as many others have suggested) that he will replace Massa. His drives already are attracting more attention than Massa’s!

  11. Richard says:

    Excuse me for crashing the Perez love fest but look at the championship tables and Kobayashi is smashing him

    1. jez says:

      Not to take anything away from Kobayashi..[mod] is his (Perez) first half of his first season, and he has missed a couple of races due to the accident.

  12. Paul says:

    Very impressed with Perez this year. For my money, easily the strongest rookie of 2011. His drive in Australia will remain as one of the drives of the year.

    I have found Paul di Resta quite overrated in his rookie season by comparison. While Paul has shown clearly that he has the pace in qualifying, he has been involved in a lot of silly errors of his own doing, which Perez, and surprisingly Maldonado, have not.

    1. CanadaGP says:

      Good point about Maldonado. I think he was underrated by many people including myself because he spent several years in GP2. Last year, when he finally won the GP2 championship, many thought the competition was not as stiff as in previous years. Then coming in as a pay driver for the Venezuelan national oil company further made people skeptics. Since then he has made several notable performances in an awful Williams and has even outperformed Rubens at times.
      Perhaps JA can make a post about him during the break.

  13. Rich C says:

    His sitting out the race in Montreal showed a sensible, mature attitude that I like.

  14. J says:

    Solid rookie season and a shame the Monaco crash held him back yet he had the maturity to voluntarily miss the Canadian GP. However I don’t remember being particularly impressed with Perez’s lap times during the race apart from being the last driver to pit. Definitely deserves his place in F1. Potential world champion? Way too early to say…

    Qualifying is clearly irrelevant this season when you consider how many drivers who qualify 18th go on to score points and couple of occasions when Kobayashi failed to get through Q1 were due to the team trying to conserve tyres/wrong timing – and yet he scored points. Bottom line he is being soundly beaten by Kobayashi who is consistently scoring points.

  15. goferet says:

    All I know is drivers with the initial ”S” have gone on to become World Champions in the sport like Sebastian & those that happened to have a surname beginning with the letter ”S” have gone on to become beasts – Senna & Schumi spring to mind,

    Likewise, drivers with the initial ”H” surname have also gone on to do well
    for themselves.

    Also in Perez’s favour is the fact that he’s from the Americas – the same continent were all the crazy fun drivers seem to emerge from. The likes of Gilles, Senna, Montoya & a certain Fangio have originated.

    So according to my cards, the signs look good for Senor Sergio Perez.

    1. unoc12 says:

      You do realise you have just mixed in all the Americas as one lot of people… that’s like so oh Jenson Button’s one of those europeans… they alway have wars like the French Revolution and Russia’s November War.

      Sergio Perez has the double the S for Senna and P for Prost.

      Unfortunately for Kimi Raikkonen I can’t then of many K or R drivers.

      Sebastian’s tend be linked with Red Bull
      Sebastian Loeb – billion times WRC champion
      Sebastian Ogier – teammate who is competitiveish with Loeb
      Sebastian Vettel – WDC 2010
      Sebastian Bourdias – Won CART a few times from emmroy
      Sebastian Buemi – ?????

  16. Darren says:

    It really helps a rookie get the monkey off their back by getting a good result first time out.

    It takes some pressure off, knowing they’ve bagged a result and those first impressions really count around the paddock. We’ve seen it this year with Perez and DiResta. Kobyashi managed it and Webber with Minardi.

    Those who have to grind away for their first breakthrough can easily get overlooked like the STR drivers.

    Perez has done everything expected of him this season and he looks set for a bright future at Ferrari if he can maintain the momentum.

    1. Highrevver says:

      good point you make. but you still need to be able to maintain consistently strong performances and ability to stay out of trouble in the long term. something the two str drivers havent done. also, as drivers of the ‘sister’ car and nurtured as ‘heirs’ to sv’s newey designed winning machine they seem to carry around this dislikeable attitude to them and have a preprepared list of excuses almost as long as jb’s!

      1. Darren says:

        Yeah. I just used STR as an example of drivers who get overlooked without doing something special early on. D’Ambrosia is in the same boat, as was Grosjean and many others.

    2. Williams4Ever says:

      We’ve seen it this year with Perez and DiResta. Kobyashi managed it and Webber with Minardi.
      >> Perez, Kamui and DiResta didn’t have to rely on first lap mishap for rest of the field while starting at the back unlike the last name you have added. Webber has his own plus but comparing his debut race with that of Perez, Kamui, PDR is belittling their performance of winning points under normal race circumstances.

      PDR too benefited from bad luck of Sauber team’s harsh disqualification, so in a way including his debut race wouldn’t be a right thing to do, but it was better than Webber’s safe back of field debut seeing the front of the grid getting wiped out…

      1. Darren says:

        Yes, good points. I agree you could argue the merrits of points achieved. However, the points were won, and that’s what stays with the driver and team.

        Webber as you say, had a large slice of luck – even Mika Salo sliding off behind while in pursuit. However he scored those “miraculous” points for Minardi and was thought of as a point scorer from then on. It was many many years before he finally bettered that 5th place finish. I have to wonder how he would have fared if not for the start he had.

  17. Tilps says:

    yes, but perez racecraft is bad.

  18. Peter says:

    As for the best rookies I usually look at previous rookie performances from Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen for comparison. In my opinion they are the most sand out drivers of the modern F1. Neither Perez or Paul Di Resta have impressed me as much as these guys before. Raikkonen`s first qualifying after only 23 (?) single seater racing in a Sauber was pretty amazing.

  19. moo says:

    Pretty weird to read how Perez and Di Resta are doing so well while being slaughtered by their teammates on race day with countless points more.

    Outqualified Kobayashi/Sutil? What does it matter of after the 1st lap they got overtaken by them?

    Perez is a bit better in race than Di Resta though who is just driving around like an amateur.

    1. James Allen says:

      P7 in Budapest? Amateur?

      1. M says:

        Thanks to the weather he got P7. Most his races were not impressive at all, kind of embarrassing really, considering how much he is being praised.

      2. Coefficient says:

        I don’t think anyone is saying that Di Resta is beating Sutil in the championship, that is patently not so. However, I think the general perception is that Di Resta is quicker than Sutil but is also working through his rookie errors. He has qualified well compared with his team mate which is very good for a rookie and once he irons out the race day kinks i.e. over eagerness I think Sutil will be exposed as the very ordinary driver he is and Di Resta will make mincemeat of him.

      3. Darren says:

        Redefinition of harsh? :)

    2. Harrison says:

      I think that Di Resta has huge potential, he has made some rookie misstakes but he has speed in him.

      I’m bit disappointed in Sutil, he is good but nothing special. He is so “invisible” only thing I remember about him is that few years ago he was P4 in Monaco and Kimi crashed in to him.

  20. Holly says:

    2013- Ferrari.
    2017- World champion with Ferrari.

  21. 1I think he is one of the stars of the future, alongside Vettel and Di Resta.

  22. Williams4Ever says:

    The team has able management in form of Peter-Monisha-James, the trio seem to think on their feet both on and off the track and that has helped the team to move in right direction.
    The positives that James Key brought to the team are quite obvious since he joined midseason 2010 and its not coincidence that the fortunes of the team started turning around since Valencia’10.

    Team has two good drivers who are capable of delivering every strategy that the team throws at them. It was first demonstrated by Kamui at Valencia’10 when he went on same set of tyres till the end of the race without losing much lap time and then overtaking other cars on fresh rubber.

    As such the team has both the ingredients the team that comes up with good strategy and tactis (not to mention the car that behaves in harmony with their strategy and tactics) and the drivers that can deliver the tactics on track.

    F1 is very much a game played on strategies and tactics and a team needs to have those in first place. How I wish I was writing this writeup for my team :(.

    But Sauber team is doing a real good job with all ingredients in right proportions resulting in perfect recipe for success. All Kudos to them :)

  23. CJM says:

    Has some of Sergio Perez’s success come at Kamui Kobayashi’s expense?

    I feel, perhaps incorrectly, that by ‘promoting’ KK to the lead driver role when he is still essentially a rookie himself, Sauber has hamstrung the Japanese driver to some extent (thus over-exaggerating the efforts of SP to the same degree).

  24. emphide says:

    Last year(rookie season without doubt) double K managed to collect 32 points or 72% of team’s points for 2010. Now has 27pts at the middle of the parade or 78% of team’s.
    How Perez making the most out of Sauber when he has only 22% percentage of the overall team points?
    So far he is doing better job despite of a stronger team mate joined the team.
    About Q Checo outqualified 5 times Kamui when the japanese 4(exclude Monaco , Canada but include Turkey K didn’t participate cause car’s failure)

    Numbers never lie when it comes to evaluate things happening in F1.
    F1 is about numbers and nothing more
    Perez still is average driver

  25. JohnBt says:

    A path has been carved out for him leading to Ferarri which I’m sure is deserving. As a rookie he’s performing well and thank god his crash in Monaco didn’t leave him any permanent injury.

    Spa seems to take forever, lol.

  26. Gaspar says:

    James in a way is off topic , but it’s applying for Perez too . I think from now on we will NEVER have big surprising results . That’s the side effect for DRS . In the past if because of a lucky circumstance a midfield guy ended up around a podium he had all the chances to do the job . Now if a better car are behind sooner or later he will find pass . So we can’t expect miracles from nobody , including Perez . In fact this year nobody else was on the podium except from the big 3 , Red Bull/Ferrari/McLaren. In past years from time to time an outsider was at least in 3rd place . That’s over now.

    1. KinoNoNo says:

      I broadly agree with you, but I like to point out that Renault also had a couple of podiums earlier in the season.

  27. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – given the focus on Sauber, any chance you can provide some insight into their engineering talent? Do they have the brains to step the team up the next level? Given there has been a bit of movement recently amongst the staff of the various teams Perhaps you could do an article across pit lane focusing on which teams have the ability to build winning cars? There is a focus on drivers, but so much of it is the cars and thats driven by the staff…

  28. simon says:

    Would Perez be in F1 now without the backing of Slim the world’s richest man and all the mexican sponsors $$$’s.

    ????

    F1 = Business.

  29. KobyFan says:

    I hope that isn’t Koby’s hand gripping Checo’s neck in your photo…no, maybe its Massa’s…

    Checo’s GP2 results and 2011 quali performances suggest he is the real deal.

    If Sauber take the final plunge and sell/re-brand into a full blown Escuderia Telmex team – Checo will be their main man, so the Ferrari seat might be further down the line…

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