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.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.