Perez captures first McLaren top five with excellent Indian GP drive

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It will inevitably get overlooked in the Sebastian Vettel championship coronation, but in fifth place in yesterday’s Indian Grand Prix, Sergio Perez had his best drive yet for McLaren.

Perez and teammate Jenson Button have struggled to extract the maximum of a difficult chassis this season and Button had the team’s only prior top-five finish, fifth at China way back in April.

But Perez ran in the top three early during the first pit stop sequence, and surged from seventh to fifth late in a DRS-assisted double move at Turn 4 on Lewis Hamilton and the ailing Kimi Raikkonen, whose tires had gone off.

“In the closing laps, it was a fantastic feeling to get past Kimi [Raikkonen] and Lewis [Hamilton] in a single move,” he said. “I just braked as late as I could for Turn 4 to try and keep Lewis behind – and I managed to do it. It’s been a tough season, but today’s result is a promising sign and really motivates the whole workforce ahead of the last three races, where we’ll be doing our best to get more strong finishes under our belts.”

There’s been some discussion regarding Perez’s future at McLaren, but a quote from Sam Michael read during the NBCSN race broadcast did all but confirm the same driver lineup for the last season of McLaren Mercedes, before the team switches to Honda in 2015.

Perez, obviously, did himself no harm on Sunday. The Mexican scored the first three podium finishes of his career a year ago for Sauber.

“Unlike the past two or three weekends, I was finally able to enjoy a clean race without any bad luck! Fifth place is a great result for me. Without question, I have a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but it’s always sweeter when you perform well while under pressure. I’m extremely satisfied,” he said.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.