Moving to McLaren could be the making of Sergio Perez as an F1 driver, according to the man who first put the Mexican on the international motorsport map.
Despite being a member of Ferrari's young driver 'academy', Perez was McLaren's first choice to replace Lewis Hamilton when the 2008 world champion heads for Mercedes at the end of the year, and F3 team boss Russell Eacott believes that the move will be beneficial for both parties.
Eacott admits to chasing Perez's signature when the Mexican was looking to move up into F3, and his T-Sport equipe
ran him to both the British National title and then race wins in the International class before GP2 came calling.
“When I signed Sergio, I chased him all over the winter, but the good thing is that he wanted to be in the team," Eacott told Britain's Sun
newspaper in the build-up to this weekend's Korean Grand Prix, “The best thing about Sergio is he listens and now he is getting better and better every time he drives the car. He is pro-active and learns. When he arrived with us, we were in the National Class Championship. He did not know any of the circuits, about the tyres or had done any form of winter testing - but he still managed to win the championship.”
Perez is currently completing his second year of F1 since graduating with Sauber in 2011, and was widely expected to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari for next season, especially after a campaign that has yielded three podium finishes, including harassing Ferrari team leader Fernando Alonso all the way to the line in Malaysia. However, when the Scuderia hesitated on taking up his services, based on the belief that he was not yet experienced enough for a front-line seat, McLaren swooped to partner the Mexican with veteran Jenson Button for 2013. Eacott believes that that decision will pay dividends, not only for the Woking team, but for Perez himself.
“I knew McLaren were interested in Sergio and when I found out they'd signed him, I thought it was brilliant - he deserves it," he said of the 22-year old, "It's going to be tough against a new team-mate in Jenson Button, but that will also be good for him, because he will get better and better. He develops all the time, [and] that's how he develops.”
“His results this season speak for themselves. His performance in Italy, where he was second, was tremendous. His pace was relentless, lap after lap after lap — and that shows how good he is now
Perez currently sits tenth overall in the drivers' standings, but has more podium finishes than both Massa and Nico Rosberg ahead of him and is just three points behind the Brazilian with five races remaining before he becomes a McLaren driver.