Why Sergio Perez must avoid a repeat of Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren experience
Posted By: James Allen  |  09 Jan 2013   |  6:07 pm GMT  |  166 comments

McLaren today officially unveiled its new driver Sergio Perez, in McLaren colours, at media events in the team’s HQ at Woking and in Central London

And the 22 year old Mexican made a bullish start, saying that he hopes to fight for the world title from the first race onwards and that he will be disappointed if he does not beat Jenson Button during their scheduled three-year partnership.

Button will start his 229th Grand Prix in Melbourne while Perez will be starting only his 38th. To have landed a McLaren seat so soon is remarkable, but Perez is mindful that he does not want to repeat Heikki Kovalainen’s experience with the team, being dropped after just two seasons with disappointing results,

“Hopefully we can have a very strong car and fight for the championship. That has to be the target,” he said this morning when speaking to BBC’s Jennie Gow.

‘I think at the moment it looks like Jenson has experience, has the team,’ Perez added. ‘He’s a great champion – the most experienced driver in the paddock now. So I think I have a lot to learn from him. And obviously I want to beat him as well. I will be disappointed if I don’t beat him. I am here to win.’

‘If you don’t expect to win you should go home. I am here to win the championship. That is the target. As a driver you always dream to drive for McLaren. To be here sitting down and giving my first interviews as a McLaren driver is a very special moment.”

Perez had an early lesson on life at McLaren when he was told to tuck his shirt in, but he says that he has already appreciated how special the feeling within the team is,

“From the outside it looks as if it might be a very cold team – very strict and very cold – but when I came here I was surprised at what a great family it is, ” he said. “I have to respond to the trust they put in me.’

As Perez used to dress at Sauber..

In Button, Perez has a very experienced team mate, who knows what it takes to win in F1, which is vital. F1 drivers tend to improve race performances with experience, so it’s likely that Button will have the edge on Sundays, but his erratic qualifying performances may offer the Mexican some opportunities to get some confidence boosting results on Saturdays. Although Perez himself has proved rather erratic in qualifying himself.

At this level, F1 is a head-game; the attention and pressure are much higher when you are expected to win, than when you over perform in a Sauber and score some podiums. Perez got a taste of this after he was announced as a McLaren driver following the Singapore Grand Prix. The signs were not encouraging; having scored 66 points up to then he failed to score another in the remaining six races.

Knowing how to cope with the expectation and what to do when things aren’t going well is what Kovalainen learned from his time at McLaren. He could not cope with Lewis Hamilton’s speed and admits he looked in the wrong place for the answers.

“Things were not going well,” Kovalainen said when reflecting on the experience, “Expectations were high and we were not able to deliver that meant that the confidence in your own ability…you were starting to ask questions; Is it my problem? My team mate is getting better results, is it my problem?'”

You can listen to what Kovalainen said about this experience on the JA on F1 Podcast , Episode 2

Perez is aware of what is expected of him and time will tell how he copes with the experience. McLaren is a team which tends to take care of all the details around the driver to eliminate problems and negatives and get the most from them. They even have a specialist engineer, whose job it is to manage everything the driver comes into contact with in the cockpit.

“I don’t feel the pressure but obviously you have to deliver here in McLaren,” Perez said. “You are coming here to deliver results, to win championships. This is the target when you come to McLaren, the best team in F1, you have to really deliver the results.”

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It is always a sad sight to see such a committed and driven person that has put so much into a company driven from his passion. McLaren would never have been what they are without his leadership and insistence on the highest of standards in everything.
Most journalists contributing to this story or the proof readers are testament to that as there are so many typos and bad grammar that would not be in anything sent out be a Ron Dennis type individual. Some would say it does not matter that much as mistakes happen but that is why Ron Dennis built the company that is the McLaren you see today, IT DOES MATTER. Most that worked for him would probably say in hindsight he made them do better than they would have done without his OCD. Good Luck Ron.


Simple as this: A F1 Driver relies 100% on the performance of his car. If you sit Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton or Kimi in a Marussia what do you think is going to happen?… Its REALLY A SHAME the car that McLaren is offering this year to his great drivers. Who can win with a piece like that?… In the other hand, sit a medium driver like Hulkenberg, Sutil or Grosjean in a RedBull and they will kick ass more than once…

Ist a shame for McLaren.


What everyone is forgetting is that Perez did all his shining in the period when few teams understood the tyres. As soon as other teams got a better understanding of the 2012 tyres, the real Perez stood up and it wasn’t a pleasant sight.

I’m afraid Ferrari’s summation of his driving abilities are bang on the money. Except McLaren have a miracle to unleash, they have locked themselves in a room with two drivers that cannot fight for regular wins. The more experienced Jenson needed to copy Lewis setup and driving style to get off the road to nowhere in 2012 and Perez is proving to have a disastrous nervous tick.

What is happenning to McLaren?


I’d argue that Perez’s signing for McLaren is not as remarkable as it’s being portrayed.

In 1996 they signed DC, who had 25 races to his credit. Indeed they would have signed him for 95 (when he had just 8 races) but the CRB ruled that Williams were entitled to his services.

Their next signing was Kimi Raikkonen in 2002. KR had just one season behind him – 17 races.

Since then McLaren have signed some experienced drivers (Alonso, Montoya, Button) but also Hamilton (no races) and Kovalainen (1 season, 17 races) in 2007 and 2008.

So McLaren signing a driver who is light on experience is not really that unusual.


Erk, this is painful to see. I really hope Hamilton knows what he’s doing. How can anyone give up a McLaren seat for Mercedes. The fact that Haug has quit citing poor results is a very, very worrying sign indeed.

Short of a miracle at Mercedes I can only hope Hamilton has an exit clause and can get back to Blighty in 2014.


If she does beat Button, then Jensons rep will be in tatters, the championship a fluke and that is all.


I think its Jenson who is under pressure, Perez only need prove he is still quick for now – Button has to out qualify and out place him, no hiding place.(the shadow of Hamilton is gone.

It’ll be interesting to see how Mclaren do this coming season – Buttons record as a tire whisperer when considered is more myth than truth, with Lewis making tires perform better last season – Perez knows how to set a car up to use tires too.

Me thinks we could be seeing the birth of a new superstar in parez, if he comes close to performing in the Mclaren as he did in the early part of last season in the Sauber he’ll not only blow Jenson away he’ll become a real contender.


So is SP faster than LH? I don’t think so, Lewis is one of the fastest ever, up there with Senna, Kimi and Vettel

Is SP an average pay driver, I don’t think so, he would not have challenged Alonso in Malaysia, finish behind Lewis in Monza, and pass Lewis in Suzuka in a midfield car (even if he only managed it once)

Is he a better driver than all of us writing in this site? (James Allen included)he definitely is

James mentioned in the race report that Sauber lost Malaysia to Alonso with a conservative strategy and slow pit stops, and his big mistakes (not passing Alonso for the lead, and driving off course in Suzuka probably would have not happened if Sauber had managed to send him back ahead where he was before pit stops)

I think in a faster car, with sharper team work, he will perform better (it is also easier to avoid cutthroat midfield fights that lead to mistakes)

He also needs to develop himself quickly into a faster, more consistent driver to win races, get pole positions, score points regularly and retain his job at McLaren

Will he be able to do that? Neither Whitmarsh, nor James Allen, nor myself know that, we all have to wait and see

I can only wish him good luck because that would give us all a good racing season to watch


Sorry to reply myself

Will SP tuck his shirt? He will (I would also ask him to shave)

Will he get a girlfriend like Nicole? I hope not, at least not for the next 2-3 years


Its interesting that Perez refers to McLaren as “Jenson’s Team”. 3 years ago Jenson was refering to it as “Lewis’ Team”. Could we be talking about “Sergio’s Team” by the end of 2015?


Button will be 35 by then so it’s certainly possible.


Well McLaren do seem to have trouble maintaining drivers on their team (Hamilton, Alonso … etc), so yeah I wouldn’t be surprised if it is “Sergio’s Team” by 2015.


Michael Schumacher’ teutonic character would’ve fit in Mclaren like a ‘T’. I wonder why he refused reported 6 offers from Ron Dennis in the 90s and 2000s ?

Scuderia McLaren

1: Money

2: Personal sponsorship flexibility (Money)

3: Willi Weber


Where does the name “Checko” come from? I can’t see how it is linked to “Sergio” or “Perez”?


It comes from a slightly variation on pronounciation of Sergio as a name. Small children (at least in Spanish speaking countries, I would believe in English speaking countries as well) have problems producing some word-sounds when they are very little. It is usual that a small kid pronounces Checo instead of Sergio when they are little. And then most of the Sergios in Mexico are called Checo as a nickname.


“Checo” is just a nickname for “Sergio”, not specific to Sergio Perez.


Perez is a talented driver like Button. hamilton, Alonso and Vettel are god gifted drivers. I’m telling you guys now Mclaren will not be the force people think. Hamilton was the bencem ark there because he would do a time 4 tentsh quicker tahn button and then the team would know where the acr is at and Button could push to get that time. Without that bench mark Button will be unable to push to greater limits because the limit will be what time he is setting.

Anyhow with the new mercedes W04 with the the areo whizz Mike Elliot and designer Aldo costa knwon for his cars being gentle on their tyres Mercedes are a huge under-dog. hamilton will be able to push with a car with lower tyre degradation.


I do have a off topic question about what Ecclestone said about F1 can lose another team as long it is not Ferrari. And i don`t need this Micky Mouse analyse about being the soul of F1.

James, can you tell me the facts and numbers behind Ecclestone words. Because last year i had impression that “they” wanted to play championships into Ferraris hands.


Any talk of a Vodafone exit for 2013 was dispelled yesterday. Sergio was wearing 2013 teamwear, which also seemingly features no Mexican additions.

I wish Sergio all the best, but don’t seriously see him mounting a consistent challenge. No doubt there will be flashes of excellence, but more than that, I’m not convinced.

If Mclaren had hoped to lure Honda back to the sport I think Kamaui would have been a good call. I know he was a Toyota man but still. Jenson and Kamaui for a 2014 Honda return would have been very well received in Japan!


The 2013 car and sponsor package hasn’t been launched yet. Vodafone is still there in 2013, though.

Watch for Mexican additions as we go along.


Nice picture, anybody else feel like Perez is being led like a lamb to the slaughter.


Being my Fav team it was sad to see Lewis go and equally surprised that Perez got the go ahead. Wishing him good luck and me thinks that Nico Hulkenberg would have been a better choice.


Was it Ron Dennis that told him to tuck his shrt in lol ? If it was Kimi- hd would have told him to f:off.

Chekko saying he does not feel the pressure is all well & good- but he hasn’t started racing yet!- and if he’s not winning- only then will he know what pressure is.

Sergio is not in the same position as Heikki was because very few people could go wheel to wheel with Hamilton whereas with Button most can. What he does need to watch is Buttons team leadership and willingness/ or lack thereof to help him share car set up etc in the early stages while Sergio is finding his own way.


Hard to imagine that Perez will get the job done but he’s one of few drivers who ever got the real opportunity to show their mettle in a top car.

I still feel Hamilton made a huge judgement error leaving a team of this caliber and heritage. I really wouldn’t like to be in his helmet if he scores less points than Perez next season….or worse would be for him to watch Button take the WDC


I can’t hold my tongue anymore….MY GOODNESS those are beautiful F1 cars behind that tucked-in Perez. You know you’ve got a flawless design when 25 years on it still looks DA BOMB! …even out of focus.


Lewis is not in McLaren anymore, Jenson doesn’t have the same raw pace as Lewis, so this won’t happen to Sergio.

Scuderia McLaren

If reports on the new gen of Pirelli’s are to be believed, then the nature of the tires will move towards Button and away from Perez.

What I mean by that is the issues Button had with getting the tires ready for quali will be less apparent. His weakness will be less of a factor.

Conversly, the strength Perez had with maintaining old tyres for many many laps at solid pace will be over.

If we are heading back to a time of more pitstops, more degredation, sprint racing with wide working range tires in terms of heat, I think this tire formula goes right up the alley of Button, Raikkonen and Massa.

It goes away from Perez and Alonso (known for heating his tyres very well).


I thought Sergio & Kamui’s problems in qualifying were down to the Sauber not heating its tyres effectively, essentially given them the same issue as Button?


I think you read that here!!

It seems that could be the case, but we will find out during testing.

Scuderia McLaren

James, I think you just “+1’d” me. If so, thanks.



Did Jamie Alguersuari not give you any inside info on this?

Also will you be returning with him in the Radio 5 Live commentary box?


As long as Button is at McLaren, Perez shouldn’t have any worries. Button is always struggling to set up his car.


It is too early to speculate now. I know if I was given a great opportunity to be in a prestigious team, I will put in the extra mile each and every time.

I expect Perez to do the same. So I expect him to be at least on par with Button or beat him (since Perez is filling Hamilton’s seat).

Lets see if he can do it.


Its hard to see Perez as something special given that he was routinely out qualified by his teamate this year. The real emerging talent this year was definitelty Grosjean. He showed tremendous raw speed. I’m sure sponsorship factored into this decision.


Obviously the driver choice is the result of all factors being considered, to think otherwise is daft.

Grosjean and Maldonado both showed some amazing speed, but both showed immense stupidity at other times. Not just crashing, but reckless, brain off cretinous moves that are serious question marks over their characters.


Routinely outqualified by his team mate? As far as I know, it was exactly even between them, and that includes Perez starting from the back at Monaco from what I vaguely recall as his car failing on him and putting him in the wall. Before that, he was looking pretty quick at Monaco. In Australia as well from memory, he didn’t get to set a time after Q3 due to a gear box problem. KK may have had some similar quali problems (I don’t recall), but the point is more that the two of them were pretty even in terms of who out-quali’d who. And on a couple of KK’s great quali performances, like Belgium and Suzuka, SP was right up there with him.

As for Grosjean, SP was just a few seconds behind RG in Canada on their brilliant one stop strategies, with RG having started I think 7 or 8 places in front. And on RG’s day off in the naughty corner, SP showed some pretty mighty pace in Monza as he took down everyone but Hamilton (with his team mate starting a few places in front on the grid dropping one spot in the race).

Certainly RG showed speed more consistently through the season than SP (and both had their share of silly incidents too), but given the performance by both Sauber drivers was fairly up and down throughout the season, possibly it was at least partly down to their car not performing as consistently as the Lotus from circuit to circuit.

All that said, I’m keen to see what both SP and RG can do next year. They both seem very talented to me, and both have their own points to prove this year. Hopefully SP will show it was more a case of the Sauber being inconsistent than his own driving, and hopefully the Lotus will be that little bit more competitive (especially in quali) and RG will be able to keep out of incidents (including other people driving into or across the front of him). They’re paired up with two very experienced WDC drivers (two of the best clean wheel-to-wheel racers out there), so hopefully the SP and RG will learn that little bit more and show more consistent and polished performances. =)


I’m in the camp that Perez will be just fine. I think he is better prepared and also a better driver than Heiki. Also, in Button he doesn’t have blistering pace to worry about. Sure, Button has great qualities but it is pace that will effect Perez’s confidence and Button won’t do that.

I would expect Button to come out on top but I won’t be putting any money on it. Perez’s performance at the end of last year is not a worry it is natural to dip off as he mentally prepares for the next test in his career.

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