Sergio Perez may have impressed on his first year in F1, but another good performance in year two could lead to him securing one of the sport's most prized seats.
That is the view of the Mexican's biggest supporter, Telmex boss Carlos Slim Domit, who believes that Perez could be destined for the second seat at Ferrari in 2013 if he confirms his potential with Sauber this season.
The former GP2 Series runner-up graduated to F1 last season as team-mate to Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber, and would have scored points on his debut in Melbourne had it not been for a technical irregularity on the C30 which saw both cars disqualified. Despite his season being interrupted by a massive accident in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix - after Perez had made it through to the third phase of the Saturday session - he returned to contribute 14 points to Sauber's total, often out-performing his more experienced team-mate in the process.
With Felipe Massa's position at Ferrari under scrutiny, as it has been for a few seasons, there is no shortage of potential replacements being lined up, but Slim Domit is confident that Perez, already a member of the Scuderia's Academy programme, can gain a head-start on his rivals by performing well in 2012.
“His most important challenge is this season,” the telecoms entrepreneur told Spain's AS
newspaper, “It is true that there is a relationship with Ferrari on two levels — with them being the engine supplier of Sauber and the other because [Perez] is in their young [driver] programme. A good championship in 2012 can put him into the frame with the best teams, but a bad year would have the opposite effect. It's a tough sport where results matter and, as such, the future will be clearer.”
Massa is in the last year of his current deal with Ferrari and, unless he at least matches the performance of team-mate Fernando Alonso in 2012, is unlikely to be retained. Among those to have been rumoured as possible replacements for him are Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi, although some are more credible suggestions than others.