Sergio Perez has every right to be bitter at a sport that is determined to turn its back on him.
Perez, who after 189 Formula 1 races of coming up short, finally made it to the top step of an F1 podium when he won the F1 Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain on Sunday. The victory ended the second-longest stretch of winless races to start a F1 career (Andrea de Cesaris, 208).
The win was also Perez’s latest shot over the bow at those who, for whatever reason, don’t think he’s good enough to continue to race in Formula 1.
And that list seems to include his current employers at Racing Point.
Racing Point Team owner Lawrence Stroll and team principal Otmar Szafnauer decided in September they would rather have an aging superstar in four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel next year instead of a loyal racer in Perez who has been with the team since 2014 and is just now coming into his own.
Since the announcement that Perez was available for 2021, several teams have passed on him.
Haas decided it would rather have a pair of untested rookies from the F2 ranks in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Masepin next year.
Alfa Romeo extended deals with aging Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi. Giovinazzi, who has not shown he can race with big boys, is three years younger than Perez and has yet to make it to the podium in his F1 career.
Williams is keeping its own kiddie corps of George Russell and Nicolas Latifi instead of taking a driver who is now a proven F1 winner.
And Red Bull, which has been toying with the idea of pairing Perez with Max Verstappen, seems to be looking for reasons to keep Alex Albon.
What more can Sergio Perez, nicknamed Checo, do to prove to his current bosses at the Racing Point Formula 1 team that they are making a mistake in letting him go after the 2020 F1 season?
“Checo has been a fantastic asset,” Racing Point team owner Stroll said on Sunday. “He’s been an asset to this team a long time before I arrived. He most definitely proves every weekend that he deserves to be in car next year. And I hope he’s in that Red Bull next year.”
Kind words from a man who just eight weeks ago felt Perez is not good enough to race for Racing Point next year. On the other hand, Stroll wanted Vettel and he wasn’t about to fire his own son, Lance Stroll, despite the fact that Perez is well ahead of Lance in the standings.
Perez, to his credit, said that he’s not bitter. He’s also convinced that neither Sunday’s win nor the fact that he’s likely to finish fourth in the Drivers’ Championship will change his current F1 fate. Many of those drivers he beating on a regular basis have earned new contracts for 2021.
“I don’t think, to be honest, it changes,” Perez said on Sunday. “Already my picture was getting clearer. If I’m not on the grid next year, I already have options to come back for ’22. I’m at peace with myself.
“If I (get a chance) to be here, I’m more than committed to do so for next year. If not, I will take a year (off). I’m more committed than ever to be back in ’22 because I believe this is where I need to be. I’m only 30 years old. I have my best years ahead of me. So, I’m determined to come back and come back strong.”
Perez had held up his end of the bargain with his performance of late. He’s finished in the points in 13 of 14 starts this season, has six top-fives, and is going to finish in the top 10 in the Drivers’ Standings for the seventh consecutive year. He’s fourth in the season standings despite missing two full races after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this year.
“It’s not fully up to me what happens,” Perez said. “I’m also in a nice place, to be honest. I don’t know what will happen. I certainly will know in the coming weeks, but I’m at peace with myself for what’s coming in my future.”
Meanwhile, Racing Point team principal Szafnauer said almost all the right things after Perez’s win in Barhrain on Sunday.
“What a great drive,” Szafnauer said. “From last to first. Not many people can say that. He absolutely deserves to be in Formula 1. He did a great job today. He’s done a great job all season. I think this will help him, hopefully, gain fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. I think help be significantly ahead (in the standings). He definitely deserves a place on the grid.”
Just not with Racing Point.
Formula 1 Drivers Standings
Is Racing Point making a mistake in letting Sergio Perez go? Join in the discussion below in the comments section.
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