Friday, 28 September 2012

Sergio Perez to McLaren

Dovetailing with the announcement that Lewis Hamilton would be joining Mercedes, came the news that Mexico's Sergio Perez would be replacing the Englishman in the McLaren team.

Some have argued that Perez is largely untested and unproven, and there are still a few rough edges to be smoothed out.  However, there is persuasive evidence indicating that he is not just a raw youngster being promoted over his head.  There have been glimpses, particularly during the 2012 season, of real nous and maturity, things which separate the potentially great from the merely good.  These things do not go un-noticed by team managers, however much we may like to denigrate their judgement at times!

It does seem that Perez brings with him some lavish financial backing, and though it is hard to believe that this   was anything like a decisive factor, it doesn't exactly hurt either, with the current economic climate ensuring that uncertainty and instability are never too far away, even for an organisation such as McLaren.

The effect on the driver politics at McLaren is also fascinating to speculate upon.  It can be argued that the departure of Hamilton, and the signing of Perez, leaves the driving strength at Woking temporarily weakened.      It is possible, but not certain, that Perez will take a little time to find his feet, and during that time it may feel like a void has been left by the loss of the outright speed and talent of Hamilton.  However, once Perez has acclimatised to life in a front-running team, the driving line-up should be well-balanced, the youthful exuberance and elan of the Mexican complementing the solidity, experience and methodical approach of Jenson Button. In this respect, does Jenson represent some kind of "insurance policy" for McLaren?

So how is Perez likely to fare at McLaren?   The odds are that he will flourish given time, but at the same time there are numerous examples of promising drivers who looked like world-beaters in middling teams, but whose careers soon assumed a plateau upon being promoted to a car running at the front.  Young drivers in teams such as Sauber are allowed the occasional aberration or off-day, but this is less likely to be tolerated or indulged in a top team. Part of Perez's task will be to bridge that gap.

Much has been made of the cooling of Ferrari's interest in signing Perez to their race team, if indeed there was genuine interest in the first place.  Granted, the Ferrari management was reputed to have cast doubt on Perez's suitability on the grounds of experience, but what effect will today's developments have on the careers of both Felipe Massa and, for the sake of argument, Sebastian Vettel?   Only time will tell....

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