Former McLaren driver John Watson believes that his ex-team is lacking the same spark that they had when Lewis Hamilton was racing for them, saying that they appear to have “one and a half drivers.”
Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes at the end of last season, with Sauber’s Sergio Perez stepping up to replace him. However, with just four points from the opening two races, the team appears to be struggling, but Watson believes that Perez is yet to prove that he is ready to race for such an established team.
“McLaren look like they’ve got one and a half drivers,” said Watson. “Signing Perez to replace Hamilton did raise a few eyebrows in the paddock. While I think most would say he’s got a single fast lap in him, his race performances are less of a known quantity.”
Perez claimed three podium finishes in 2012, but he failed to score once his move to McLaren had been confirmed after the Singapore Grand Prix. With just two seasons of grand prix racing under his belt, Perez does not have the experience a top team requires according to Watson.
“The big teams are benefiting from having two drivers with lots of experience and race victories under their belt and I think McLaren, at least in the short term, are losing out.
“I think they have the infrastructure and people there to correct the problem – but first they’ve got to find where the problem actually lies and I don’t know if they even know.”
Perez showed his one lap pace in Malaysia by setting the fastest lap, and he has matched teammate Jenson Button so far this season. However, questions will still hang over Perez’s head until he can claim his first win in Formula One.
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Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.