Perez believes Bahrain drive silenced his critics

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Sergio Perez says his performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix proves he can justify his place at McLaren.

Perez finished sixth after beating his team mate and Fernando Alonso in tough wheel-to-wheel battles.

“We’ve been through some very difficult moments but I think this is the start of our season,” said Perez. “I never lost my confidence, I always believed in myself. I’ve shown the critics that I can do a good job.”

Perez came in for some criticism after lackluster performances in the early races of the season.

He drew fire from Kimi Raikkonen for the manner in which he defended his position in China. But, as was also the case with Alonso in Bahrain, the stewards were unmoved by the complaints of Perez’s rivals.

Perez focused on honing his race set-up in Bahrain which allowed him to go on the attack from 12th on the grid.

“The strategy and the pace of the car allows you to be different,” said Perez. “You are not defending, you are attacking.”

Team mate Jenson Button also felt Perez had overstepped the mark in Bahrain but the pair resolved their differences:

F1 2017 driver review: Carlos Sainz Jr.

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Carlos Sainz Jr.

Teams: Scuderia Toro Rosso (1-16), Renault (17-20)
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Singapore)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 54
Championship Position: 9th

Carlos Sainz Jr. has always been compared to Max Verstappen given their relative rise and stint together at Toro Rosso, but the Spaniard began to forge his own impressive path through 2017, securing himself a works drive with Renault in the process.

Alongside the struggling Daniil Kvyat for much of the season, Sainz led Toro Rosso’s charge, scoring 48 of its 53 points with a string of impressive drives. His headline moment came in Singapore when he matched Verstappen’s best result in Toro Rosso colors by finishing fourth, capitalizing on the start-line crash and the wet weather with a strong display.

Sainz’s displays led to a call from Renault, who announced just two days before his star display in Singapore he would be joining up for 2018 on loan from Red Bull. However, the deal was accelerated after a deal was brokered to secure Jolyon Palmer’s departure, allowing Sainz to join up from the United States GP onwards.

Sainz made an immediate impression, completing a perfect race en route to seventh on debut for Renault to secure six points that would prove crucial in the final constructors’ championship standings as the French team beat Toro Rosso to P6 in the standings at the last race of the year.

Red Bull retains an option on Sainz’s future beyond 2018, making him a candidate for a seat with its senior team should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave. Failing that, Renault could offer Sainz the platform he needs to continue his rapid rise in F1 and establish himself at the front of the pack for many years to come.

Season High: Finishing fourth in Singapore after dodging the start-line drama.

Season Low: Crashing out in his final Toro Rosso appearance on the first lap at Suzuka.