24 November 2013
Brazilian Grand Prix: ‘Class act’ Perez takes points on McLaren swansong
Sergio Perez took sixth place on his final appearance with McLaren, before dropping hints about his whereabouts for next season.
Sergio Perez ended his brief dalliance at McLaren with a charging run to sixth place in the Brazilian Grand Prix, before repeating hints that his future is already mapped out for 2014.
The Mexican had qualified 14th for the final race of the season, but suffered a five-place demotion on raceday morning when it was confirmed that the gearbox on his MP4-28 had been damaged by an errant driveshaft when he crashed at the end of Q2. Despite the setback, however, he made short work of the cars around him in the opening laps to rise quickly into the points positions and, after a two-stop strategy, was threatening to take fifth place from Mercedes' Nico Rosberg in the closing stages. His earlier pace, however, had put a strain on his fuel consumption, and that, combined with non-appearance of the expected rain, curtailed the charge.
“What a contrast today was to yesterday,” Perez exclaimed after climbing from the cockpit, “We were unlucky to lose five grid positions owing to a gearbox-change penalty, but I think we made a very strong recovery this afternoon.
“I was praying for heavier rain at the end of the race, so that I could have a go at making up some more positions but, unfortunately, I had to save fuel in the final laps, which meant I couldn't really attack Nico as hard as I'd otherwise have been able to.”
Perez, of course, went into the final two races of the 2013 season knowing that his time at McLaren was running out. With the Woking team having opted for WSbR champion Kevin Magnussen as Jenson Button's team-mate for 2014 – a decision now revealed to have been the result of another team reneging on a deal to take the Dane - Perez was the odd man out, but his demeanour, in contrast to the arrogance claimed by some insiders, was praised by team boss Martin Whitmarsh.
“I'm personally delighted that 'Checo' was able to end his year at McLaren with such a fantastic performance,” Whitmarsh said, “As I've said many times, he's a fine driver. He's also a lovely guy, and the way he's conducted himself over the past ten days, in particular, in extremely challenging circumstances, has been hugely impressive. He's a class act.”
Perez, who announced he was heading to McLaren before an official announcement was forthcoming, appears to have repeated the trick for next year too, hinting more than once that he is close to a deal to join Force India for 2014. Although the Silverstone team has yet to confirm its line-up, paddock rumour suggests that Perez will partner Nico Hulkenberg next season, with current incumbents Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil moving on….
“I think I've grown up a lot this year – both as a racing driver and as a man – and I think I'll be an even stronger competitor in future as a result,” Perez insisted as he signed off as a McLaren man, “I've learnt so much from everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, the best team I've ever raced with, and I wish every single one of them all the best for the future.”
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