Sergio Perez may not have been the most popular person in Monaco two weekends ago, but has found an unexpected ally in the form of McLaren sporting director Sam Michael.
The Mexican, having already raised the hackles of new team-mate Jenson Button in Bahrain, got under the skin of two further world champions – Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen – with forceful attempts to pass them at the chicane in Monaco. Although Alonso's decision to avoid a collision with the McLaren resulted in him having to give up a place for cutting the chicane, Raikkonen proved to be a more feisty opponent and, after both had been forced to cut the corner after Perez's first effort, came to blows second time around.
Raikkonen was forced to pit with a punctured rear tyre, eventually finishing tenth, while Perez retired with brake problems as a result of being sandwiched between the Lotus and the barrier, but it was the Finn's post-race reaction – in which he suggested punching Perez in the face would be better than trying to talk to him – that best summed up the mood.
Michael, however, has moved to defend his driver, insisting that Perez is only doing what his accusers have done in the past – and doing what he should be doing as a 'racing driver'.
"It's an interesting question but, ultimately, he's a racing driver and he's just racing,” the Australian told journalists during a media phone-in, "All of the moves that he did are all moves that have been done by all of those drivers at various points in their career - some recently and some long ago. The overtaking opportunities that are available at the chicane in Monaco are the ones that have been used for a long time before 'Checo' was even born.
"Ultimately he's racing for his position. He's establishing himself and the racing that's he's doing all those other drivers have done themselves. That's F1 - it was obviously hard racing, but that's what F1's meant to be able."
With the Canadian Grand Prix next up, at a venue where Perez took one of his three podiums in 2012 but which could also prompt more antagonism as the Mexican looks to use the limited overtaking points, Michael insists that the team will continue to back its man.
“He's a talented driver and, the way that he's racing at the moment, McLaren support what he's doing,” he claimed, “We're full behind Checo as long as he keeps developing.
“He definitely went through a transition in the last two or three races - he's really been able to mix it on pace with his team-mate and that's good. Technically, he knows what he wants from the car and is quite explicit about that with all the engineers. He's good for the level of experience he's got.”