Giant-killing has been part of Perez’s game pretty much since he started in F1. He was seventh on his debut for Sauber before being disqualified for a technical infringement, and the following year mastered the Pirelli tyres to bring home three podiums (and almost a win in Malaysia) for the team. Those performances saw him promoted to McLaren to replace Lewis Hamilton for 2013. He didn’t have the best time of it, but with McLaren having an awful season he was made something of a scapegoat and dropped after just one season.
Since then he’s been with Force India, where he’s had five podiums and beaten highly-rated teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon in the championship.
You’d think that’s an impressive enough set of circumstances for the 28-year-old to earn a seat with a top team. And with Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes all potentially having spaces open for 2019, it wouldn’t be surprising if Perez’s name was one of those in contention – but it isn’t. He doesn’t understand why, saying:
“I don’t know the reason for that. I think I’ve been doing a very strong job in the past seasons so in that side there is not a lot I can do. It’s hard to show.
“I finish in the last two years seventh in the championship, in the front mix. So it’s hard for people to realise but I’m sure when they look at the performance. It’s not a coincidence I’ve beaten good drivers such as Hulkenberg, the time we spent together. I believe I can be as good as anyone out there.”
Why isn’t Perez in the frame for a drive at Ferrari or Mercedes? We all know how good Hulkenberg is, and in their three years as teammates Perez beat him in the championship twice and took five podiums compared to Nico’s zero. It’s a similar situation with Ocon, yet his role as a Mercedes junior means he’s the one in line for the Mercedes drive, not Checo.
Maybe it’s the stubborn attitude towards his team he’s occasionally displayed (Canada last year anyone?), or maybe that slightly wobbly (but by no means disastrous) year with McLaren is still hurting his reputation. It can’t be his driving, though, because that’s been undeniably solid.
His best chance for a promotion would surely come if Kimi Raikkonen decides to call it quits and Daniel Ricciardo doesn’t take his seat. Then he’d probably be a good shout to finally drive for the Scuderia. After all, he was a Ferrari junior driver once…