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…

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.