Sergio Perez on the track

Sergio Perez, aka Checo, F1 driver extraordinaire, has gotten a lot of attention as of late with his move to Red Bull Racing. With hiring the Mexican on as their second driver, Red Bull hopes to fight for more podiums and better hauls of points in their determination to beat Mercedes for the constructors’ championship title.

Perez got his start in Formula 1 with the Ferrari-aligned Sauber (now Alfa Romeo) team in 2011. At the beginning of his career with Formula 1, Perez was also signed to the Ferrari Driver Academy program where Ferrari groomed younger drivers by placing them into F1’s backmarker or midfield teams for the potential to move up to the Scuderia. However, after 2 seasons with Sauber, a colossal driver move saw Perez leave Sauber.

The Move That Shook Formula 1

In September 2012, Lewis Hamilton announced he was leaving McLaren to head for Mercedes. At the time it was seen as either a foolish move or a master stroke, depending on who you talked to. We now know which one it was. 

This meant that McLaren needed to pair a driver with World Champion Jenson Button. The promising Mexican Sergio Perez got the call and joined Button at McLaren for 2013. It wouldn’t be the best season, however, as for Checo, F1 was still a new game and he was looking to make a big impression. It lead to a number of incidents, including making contact with Button on more than one occasion — the cardinal sin. You’re to never make contact with your teammate. 

McLaren decided that young prospect Kevin Magnussen would be their second driver for 2013.

Checo Perez at F1 track talking to a team member.

A Steady Home

From 2014, Checo’s F1 home was the midfield Force India team. This is the team that would become Racing Point with Lawrence Stroll’s purchase of the team and is now racing as Aston Martin. 

Sergio found a great home at the Silverstone-based team and the team consistently became one that punched well above its financial weight. In 2014 the team placed 6th in the Constructors Championship but by 2016 had clawed their way to 4th, a feat they repeated for 2017. 

The team was able to achieve these results due to Perez’ steady hands and head behind the wheel but also his financial backing. In Formula 1, Perez is the rare combination of a talented driver that also brings significant financial backing. He is sponsored by Mexican communications company Telmex which is owned by billionaire Carlos Slim.

Job Saver

What may not be widely known is Sergio’s actions during the period when the Force India team was facing financial hardship and nearly closed up shop. Some of the team’s creditors wanted to close up the team, sell assets, and recover whatever they could. This, however, would put the 400 people on the team out of work. Due to the team’s financial situation, Checo’s F1 driver salary had yet to be paid from the year prior.

Perez brought legal action that then forced the team into administration (the UK equivalent of bankruptcy). This move forced the team to restructure in order to pay creditors (including Perez) and resulted in the financial backing of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll. Perez’ move to force the team into administration effectively saved the team from closing up completely.

Perez celebrating with an award

A New Chapter

Even with the saving of a team, all good things must come to an end. With Sebastian Vettel leaving Ferrari, Racing Point (now Aston Martin) signed the 4-time champion to a contract. This meant that in the cut-throat world of Formula 1, Perez was without a race seat.

Fortunately, Perez is extremely well liked within the paddock and his skills are known. With Red Bull having trouble with Alex Albon, it would be F1 team management malpractice if Christian Horner did not jump at the chance to sign Checo as F1 replacement for Albon. 

Will the move work out? Certainly only time will tell.

About the Author:

Jared Nichols has been a Formula 1 fan for a decade and a car nut his entire life. He is the host of the F1 Explained podcast where he and special guests make Formula 1 accessible to all. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

August 10, 2021 — Jared Nichols

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