F1 Driver Review: Sergio Perez

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After talking about the big stories and ranking our Top 10 drivers from the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship season, my colleague Chris Estrada and I are taking a look back on how each of the 23 Formula One drivers who took to the grid fared this past year.

Notching an 11th-place result in his lone year for McLaren was Sergio Perez…

SERGIO PEREZ

No. 6 McLaren-Mercedes
2013 Stats: 11th Place, 0 Wins, 0 Podiums, 1 Top-5, 11 Top-10s, 0 Laps Led
Average Start: 11.0
Average Finish: 10.2
DNFs: 2

DiZinno says: Wrong place, wrong time? The question has to be asked whether Perez was up for the challenge of McLaren but the team did him almost no favors. It was a lackluster car and at times Perez overdrove it; Monaco comes to mind for that. But there were highlights, notably Bahrain as mentioned below, India where he made several good passes and Brazil where he overcame a qualifying crash to end sixth. And to be fair, he did outqualify Button on the season, 10-9, although no one would say Button is F1’s best qualifier. All the while he maintained a favorable disposition and when he was dumped for 2014, that’s when he rose to the challenge most of all with two inspired drives. Quite frankly though, there should have been that level effort all year.

Estrada says: Replacing Lewis Hamilton was going to be a tough challenge no matter what. Perez gave it a good shot, but he just wasn’t able to finish ahead of teammate Jenson Button more often in a car that was a hindrance to them both. Still, there were good days. His bruising battle with Button en route to sixth at Bahrain may have frustrated the McLaren team but was tremendously entertaining for the rest of us. And he finished off a season-ending run of four consecutive points-paying finishes with a sixth at Brazil from 19th on the starting grid. There’s a good bit of talent in Perez, and perhaps that’s why McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh went ahead and recommended him to other teams after telling him he wouldn’t be retained; Perez has landed on his feet at Force India, where he’ll try to prove his mettle again in 2014.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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