Signs that McLaren
might be losing patience with its new driver signing Sergio Perez emerged in the wake of a disappointing Chinese Grand Prix
in Shanghai on Sunday.
Perez narrowly failed to get into the points in China and finished in 11th place - only one spot ahead of his starting grid position - and now his team principal Martin Whitmarsh has said that it's time for the 23-year-old Mexican to start showing his teeth out on the track.
"Sergio has been very polite so far this year, I think he needs to toughen up," Whitmarsh told UK newspaper The Guardian
as the team packed up ahead of a tight turnaround between the China and Bahrain race weekends. "He's been generous in allowing people past him."
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen
perhaps wouldn't agree with that sentiment, after expressing displeasure in Perez' blocking tactics during Sunday's Chinese GP which ended up with the two of them making contact. The Finn yelled into his team radio, "What the hell is he doing?" after the incident, which damaged Raikkonen's front wing and arguably cost him a shot of challenging Fernando Alonso
for the outright race win.
Perez' driving was also criticised by his predecessor at McLaren, Lewis Hamilton, who was similarly underwhelmed by what he saw from Perez: "He was all over the place," summarised Hamilton later when interviewed on the post-race podium.
But Whitmarsh insisted that this was exactly the sort of strong defence he wanted from his new driver in the future and that he'd been pleased to see Perez display a bit more grit and determination in China.
"In terms of the incident, I said to him you have to be racing and that means sometimes you've got elbows and you've got to be robust without being dirty," said Whitmarsh.
However, the incident did have repercussions for Perez for the rest of the race: "His car was damaged and we lost some performance from his car," noted Whitmarsh.
Perez has only finished in the points once since his move to McLaren
- he claimed ninth place in the previous outing in Malaysia - and however mildly critical Whitmarsh might have been about the driver's performance, the team boss conceded that a lot of the responsibility for the disappointing start to Perez' McLaren
career lay with the team itself.