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F1 2016 Driver Review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 21
Podiums: 2
Best Finish: 3rd (Monaco, Europe)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 101
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 7th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

2016 was another year that saw Sergio Perez’s stock rise. After impressing through 2015, the Mexican took things to the next level with two podium finishes for Force India as the team finished a best-ever fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Perez made a quiet start to the season, but as Force India began to find its feet and cosy up to Williams in the pecking order, Checo became strong. His charge to third in Monaco was a mix of great strategy and great driving, but his finest hour came in Baku. After qualifying second on the grid on merit (and looking set for pole at one point), Perez dropped to P7 after a grid penalty, only to then charge back to a third-place finish.

Perez’s form led to interest from Renault for 2017, but the Mexican decided to stay put at Force India for another year at least, with Ferrari being a rumored destination for the following year. It is easy to see why he is so coveted, for not only does he have bags of pace and is a safe pair of hands, but he can also turn up on occasion with big results (something teammate Nico Hulkenberg has struggled to do).

2017 should offer big rewards to drivers who can keep on top of their tires. If that does indeed prove to be the case, then watch for Perez as being one of the breakout stars.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The single-year stall at McLaren could have damaged most drivers’ careers, but it speaks volumes of Sergio Perez’s resilience that in the three years since, he has fully re-established himself as the leading light in F1’s midfield. And it’s a fitting spot for him, really, because what he’s done is help raise Sahara Force India along with him.

Despite a somewhat inconsistent first half of the season through the Austrian Grand Prix, Perez scored an opportunistic podium at Monaco and delivered one of the weekends of his career at Baku. From Silverstone through Abu Dhabi meanwhile, Perez only failed to score once, with four top-six finishes peppered in that stretch.

Perez largely eclipsed Nico Hulkenberg as well for a third straight year. Hulkenberg had some strategic misfires that cost him a couple potential podium finishes but nonetheless Perez seized his chances. He was a thoroughly deserved P7 in points.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.