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GP Week : Issue 146
Sergio Perez is turning out to be a bit special, isn’t he? I had a feeling he might be. I was in the garage with him quite a lot back in 2009 when he was contesting GP2, for I was undertaking PR responsibilities for his team- mate Edoardo Mortara (now a DTM hot-shoe). It was clear then that Sergio had race sense well beyond his 19 years. He knew how to pace himself, and he stayed out of trouble – something rare among GP2 rookies, as ‘Chico’ was then. It was difficult to gauge his raw speed, because for some reason the Arden that year was a real handful. He was able to drive around that, though, and picked up a couple of podiums he probably shouldn’t have. Thanks to his generous Telmex backing, we knew Sergio was headed for F1 and the way he has settled into Sauber has been most impressive. This year, the team’s C31 car is tidy and has emerged a serious player in that tight midfield pack. With a nose rather like a bayonet, it has stabbed the championship table higher than expected. Sauber currently sits fourth in the constructors’ chase with 30 points from two rounds. They scored 44 in the whole of 2011. Perez was thrilled with his second place yesterday – his first F1 podium – but despite his pride there was a tinge of regret as to what might have been. Contrary to reports that he’d been distracted by a radio message, he simply suffered from worn front tyres and understeered off at a critical moment and he reeled in Fernando Alonso. I had joked that Ferrari were madly texting him, offering him Massa’s seat in China if only he’d hold back this race. But Perez is too smart to want to race for Ferrari this year. Why would he? In that car?! Better to wait, to prepare properly, to climb into a Ferrari when he’s ready and learn from Fernando over the winter. To jump into the F2012 without that preparation would undo all the good work he’s done. The Italian media’s expectations would not be met. Ferrari will wait till next year. Stick with Sauber. It’s the best driver school in F1. Look at the alumni: Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel. This year’s car is their best since 2008. In Melbourne, having finished eighth with a typically deft one-stopper, Sergio hit the F1 Rocks Afterparty where I joined him and his entourage of Mexican buddies. He told me then: “This is going to be a great year” . Once the club shut I carried on to another bar, where Michael Schumacher was holding court. The barman called time but, as he was clearly a bit of a fan, told Mr Schumacher nothing was too much trouble. It was a lock in – but only one man could order. I had to spend the rest of the night tapping on Michael’s shoulder, asking if he’d get me another G&T. Something tells me, with his destiny at Maranello and no shortage of talent, Perez will be ordering the drinks for many of the coming years. A round of tequila shots it is, then. PEREZ CAN GET THE DRINKS IN ... OPINION ADAM HAY-NICHOLS F1 Editor 19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION