Sebring Notes: Gue in at Rolex winners CORE, Cosmo in at Whelen

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After winning in the Prototype Challenge category at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, CORE Autosport will have three-fourths of its Daytona lineup intact for this weekend’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

The team has announced that James Gue will return as co-driver alongside CORE regular Colin Braun and team owner Jon Bennett in their No. 54 ORECA FLM09. Bennett and Braun collaborated with Mark Wilkins (the fourth driver in its 2014 Rolex lineup) to finish fifth last year at Sebring.

“I think having one race under your belt heading into Sebring helps, especially for someone like myself who is new to the team,” Gue said in a release. “Spending more time with the team allows you develop better working relationships with the co-drivers, mechanics and engineers, which only helps the team chemistry.

“I think everyone on the team is a little more settled and prepared coming off the longest race of the year. I am really excited to get back to the track and try and pick up where we left off at Daytona.”

After making its Prototype debut at the Rolex, Whelen Motorsports is heading on to Sebring with a solid veteran fill-in to its lineup in Guy Cosmo. The American driver is subbing for Max Papis, who will not be racing this weekend due to a scheduling conflict.

At the Rolex, Cosmo finished sixth in the GTD category for Level 5 Motorsports, which will not be present for Sebring. As a result, he’s aligned himself with the Whelen stable and regulars Eric Curran and Boris Said for the famed 12-hour event.

“[Team owner] Ted [Marsh] has always put a great effort behind anything he races and I think the team did a great job to keep fighting to the finish at Daytona,” Cosmo said, referencing the team’s 10th place finish in P class. “Eric and Boris are great guys and I’m happy to be part of such a strong line up.

“Sebring is a tough track and with nearly 70 cars, this is going to be a very tough race. But the team learned a lot at the test and hopefully we can be there for the finish.”

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.