“Perez has been very polite so far this year, I think he needs to toughen up.” Martin Whitmarsh
Never have any words been taken more literally than those spoken by the McLaren Team Principal. Struggling to establish himself as a contender amongst the lions in the top teams following his move from Sauber, Sergio was given this advice to help him ensconce himself in the pride to ensure he scores more points. Checo has certainly initiated himself in the hunt with the resulting spirited approach, however it has been more akin to that of a wildcat than a courageous lion.
Perez stepped on the toes of Kimi Raikkonen in China, moving across the track in front of him resulting in a trip onto the grass and damage to the nose of the Lotus. He also managed to anger Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in the same race. Daring to battle the patriarchs for top finishes in a race will always cause friction. When Michael Schumacher roared onto the Formula One scene his sights were firmly set on taking the challenge to the leader of the pack and triple world champion, Ayrton Senna. He was on a crusade to beat the best. With such vigour for combat, the possibility of bloodshed is inevitable. The inevitable happened at the French Grand Prix in 1992 when the two collided. After the race Senna sought out the young German for a private conversation about the incident. Schumacher admitted blame for the incident and during a recorded interview for the Tri Senna campaign revealed,
“The main reason he came to see me was to ask if we had any problems in the future, we should talk in person, not complain to the press.”
|Senna and Schumacher after the incident at Magny Cours in 1992. Photo: www.dreysports.com|
Since Bahrain, Sergio Perez has shown that he intends to fight for his place, assert his authority no matter who may be in the way starting with his ex World Champion teammate, Jenson Button. Battling for fifth place Perez launched an onslaught on Jenson as fans were treated to lap after lap of thrilling tyre to tyre tumult. Like Senna with Schumacher, although not privately, Jenson voiced his opinion on the situation after the race,
“I’m not used to driving down a straight and having your team mate wiggling his wheels at you and banging wheels at 300kmh. That’s things you do in karting but grow out of it. Not the case with Checo.”
Not content with angering the experienced lions just once, Perez continued his racier form in Monaco as he made a daring move on Fernando Alonso at the harbourside chicane causing the Ferrari driver to cut the corner to avoid contact. Later in the race, a challenge by the Mexican on Raikkonen for fifth place resulted in contact at the chicane meaning a trip to the pits for Kimi to replace a punctured tyre. Clearly angered, Kimi said after the race,
“He hit me from behind and that’s all there is to it. If he thinks it’s my fault that he came into the corner too fast then he obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.”
|Perez and Raikkonen in Monaco. Photo: www. derapate.it|
Fernando Alonso’s views were slightly less heated but his similar displeasure can be read in the words,
“He was lucky this year in two or three incidents. In Bahrain there was nearly contact with Jenson, with me I was off the track avoiding contact. Here at the chicane I avoided contact, but Kimi was not lucky because he didn’t avoid the contact. But only McLaren have to be happy with him.”
Just as Ayrton Senna was threatened by young talent challenging him, so are the numerous world Champions we are privileged to have on the grid today. Although not having the ‘private chat’ Ayrton had with the young Schumacher, words from Jenson, Fernando and Kimi demonstrate the same principle, trying to put the young pretender in his place, but by doing so revealing a slight insecurity about what the future might hold.
Speaking after the race in China where the Perez ‘affair’ started, Martin Whitmarsh also said,
“Afterwards I said you have to be racing and sometimes that means you’ve got elbows and you’ve got to be robust without being dirty.”
In a season where ‘real’ racing seems to have given way to careful preservation of tyres, Sergio’s spicier style has heated things up reminding us what racing and Formula One should really be about. As long as he keeps it clean we look forward to more passes from Perez.