Peter Sauber has admitted that rookie driver Sergio Perez has exceeded expectations so far this season despite his mistake during the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
The Mexican GP2 graduate burst onto the scene with a points scoring debut in Australia, only to lose seventh place following the race when both Sauber cars were disqualified for a technical infringement.
Having been forced out of the Malaysian Grand Prix when his car was struck by ballast that had fallen from a Toro Rosso, Perez made his first real mistake of the season when he clashed with the Force India of Adrian Sutil in the final stages of the Shanghai event.
However, Sauber insisted that that such errors should be expected from a rookie driver and praised the youngster for his performances thus far.
“We knew that in Sergio we were getting a quick, young driver,” he said. “Even so, with a rookie you never have a guarantee that he will be able to call on his full potential under the pressure of a race weekend. I had high expectations of Sergio, and I have to say that so far he has actually exceeded these. He not only has the ability to look after his tyres extremely well, but also drives very consistently in the races.
“However, Sergio is also well aware that he is at the beginning of a long learning process, part of which will be incidents like the ones last Sunday in Shanghai. I'm in no doubt that Sergio will maximise his huge potential step by step. The critical factor here is that he feels comfortable within the team and has an environment which helps him to develop as well as possible.”
Sauber also praised the continued to development of Perez's team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, who scored his second points finish of the season in Shanghai.
“As a general point, I would like to emphasise that our drivers are given equal treatment. But when a rookie joins the team, the longest-serving of the two drivers – that's Kamui in this case – takes on a certain leadership role. Kamui has developed wonderfully well as a driver over the course of the last year alone, and now he is also carrying out his new role by challenging our engineers and helping them to follow the right development path.
“Of course, he continues to give us a lot of pleasure with his outstanding overtaking moves out on the track. Another very important factor is that he is a true team player, and that's something Sergio also benefits from. The two drivers really work very well together.”