Perez nearly quit Formula 1 after McLaren sacking

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Sergio Perez was one of the star performers at last Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix, storming to finish in third place after seeing off the challenges of teammate Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo. The result marked just the second ever podium finish in Force India’s history, with the first coming almost five years ago.

However, it wouldn’t have happened had he quit Formula 1 at the end of 2013 after being sacked by McLaren.

The Mexican driver rose to fame in the sport back in 2012 after claiming three podium finishes with Sauber, and coming close to winning the Malaysian Grand Prix behind Fernando Alonso. After Lewis Hamilton confirmed that he would be leaving McLaren in favor of a switch to Mercedes, the British team quickly snapped Perez up as his replacement.

But 2013 was a year from hell for McLaren. The MP4-28 car was well off the pace, meaning that both Perez and teammate Jenson Button could not reach the podium across the entire season. The Mexican was still ousted in favor of Danish youngster Kevin Magnussen. Before finding refuge at Force India for 2014, Perez nearly quit the sport altogether.

“When the McLaren decision came I was really frustrated with how things went,” Perez explained to Autosport. “I said to myself it isn’t for me. I was not willing to just go to anything.

“I really wanted to find the thing that motivated me to stay in F1 because otherwise I was willing to look for other options.

“But when the Force India came it was a straight forward decision, and we managed to do a deal.”

Perez’s career did appear to be in the lurch after being dropped by McLaren. Despite finding the seat at Force India, there were still a few question marks about his future. Is he the same driver that was at Sauber in 2012, dragging the C31 to three podiums? Or is this still the tame racer that we saw in 2013?

After two luckless races in Australia and Malaysia (the latter he failed to even start), Perez proved last Sunday that he still has the fire to fight at the very front. Moving up to the big time with McLaren so quickly appeared to go to his head a little bit, but with Force India, he finally appears to have found a more comfortable grounding in the sport.

Consider this: he was only one silver crash away from a race win…

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “