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In 2021, 31-year-old Mexican driver Sergio Perez will start his 11th season in F1. After spending seven years with Racing Point (previously known as Force India), Perez moves up the grid to Red Bull Racing and will partner Max Verstappen in a push to beat Mercedes. For most of the season, it was looking like Perez would be forced to take a year off in 2021, but Red Bull signed a deal in the week following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
|Team||Red Bull Racing|
The Mexican vs. the Venezuelan
After achieving success in the British Formula 3 championship in 2007, Perez switched to GP2 at a young stage. His first season was extremely difficult, but after a switch from Arden to Barwa Addax, the Mexican showed his worth. Despite five wins, Checo finished second in the standings behind Pastor Maldonado, and it proved enough to put him on Sauber’s radar.
F1 debut, flashes of brilliance
With the departure of Nick Heidfeld, a seat opened up at Sauber for the 2011 season, and Sergio Perez was there to seize the opportunity. Before his promotion to Formula 1, Perez also got good news from Maranello: Ferrari signed the Mexican-born driver into the Ferrari Driver Academy.
On his debut for Sauber, Perez immediately scored good points (P7 in Australia), but they were immediately stripped due to the car breaking regulations. Perez would score points once more in 2011 in Spain, and this time Checo was allowed to keep them.
Although Perez rarely scored points during the season, Sauber remained confident in him. A good choice as it would turn out in 2012, as Perez fought Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari in Malaysia for the win. Checo came extremely close to victory in his Sauber but had to settle for P2 in the end. The rest of the season was not nearly as rosy and Perez finished tenth in the standings.
Bye Ferrari, hello McLaren
After his impressive 2012 campaign, Perez faced a dilemma: As a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, he could stay at Sauber for another year and get a spot at Ferrari, but he could also break ties with the Italian team and move to McLaren, where a spot had opened up. Sergio Perez chose the latter option in 2013; this decision would cost him dearly.
As a replacement for Lewis Hamilton, Perez had big shoes to fill. Too big, it soon became apparent. In an attempt to make up for the lack of speed of the McLaren, Perez drove very aggressively.
It wasn’t just his teammate Jenson Button that didn't appreciate that driving style, but the normally cool Kimi Raikkonen also lashed out at the Mexican. 'He should be punched in the face', the Finn said after the Monaco Grand Prix when Perez rammed Raikkonen off the track.
Bye McLaren, hello Force India
The choice to trade in a future at Ferrari for one at McLaren already turned out to have been the wrong one after just one year. He left McLaren after just one season but Sergio Perez would get a fresh start at Force India in 2014 (after Paul di Resta got sidelined there) and this is where the Mexican finally seemed to unlock his potential.
In the first season, the team found themselves in P6 in the constructors’ championship and P5 one year later. With the Ocon-Perez duo, an impressive P4 was repeated in 2017 after already finishing there in 2016. The duo regularly got in each other’s way on-track, but it didn't spoil the fun in the big picture.
Sergio Perez has been on the podium with Force India five times but the team’s financial struggles endangered his future at the team. Force India was eventually taken over by Lawrence Stroll (father of Lance Stroll) in 2018 ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, meaning the team’s future was safe, albeit without Vijay Mallya as owner. Perez finished the year in P8 with the new Racing Point Force India, just missing out on the 'best of the rest' title despite getting an unlikely podium in Baku.
In 2019, Perez was joined by the boss' son, Lance Stroll. The young Canadian didn’t seem to be up to par with the Mexican during the season, meaning Perez didn’t need to push the maximum out of himself. This was at the expense of the growth of Racing Point, which, despite the major investment, didn’t manage to take the next step.
Sergio Perez in 2020
Perez completed his strongest season in 2020. Perez finished fourth in the Drivers' Championship, but perhaps, more importantly, he secured his first-ever Grand Prix victory in what seemed to be his penultimate race. With Alex Albon struggling in the Red Bull seat, it was clear Max Verstappen needed a stronger teammate in 2021.
Red Bull had several candidates to replace Albon, but they couldn't ignore Perez's strong form.
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