Pay drivers have had a bad reputation for years. Critics say that they are given a seat to fund teams and not for their ability, but many pay drivers these days are still exceptional drivers and none more than Sergio Perez. The Mexican – backed by billionaire Carlos Slim – debuted in 2011 with Sauber and a year later he scored three podiums with a mid-table car. He soon garnered attention from McLaren who signed him up for 2013.
But lady luck was not on Checo’s side as McLaren endured a nightmare year, failing to pick up a podium all year – the first time in 33 years. Perez would leave after a single year, moving onto Force India.
Since then, things have been relatively sound for the 26-year-old. In only his third race with the team, he picked up a podium in Bahrain. Another followed last year in Russia after a strong end to 2015 and he has two to his name in 2016 so far. He sits in a career-high eighth in the Championship, hoping to capitalise at some of Force India’s more favoured tracks mentioned in their mid-term preview.
But where does Perez go from here? While at Sauber, he was the most sought-after youngster on the grid. The promising McLaren move proved to be unsuccessful, but the talent has shone through again at Force India. Now there are rumours that after three years with the team, he wants a move. Half of this is down to his sponsors, half down to his desire to win a championship.
His sponsors ultimately control where he races next year, with Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley, saying there is no plan B until they know the future of their driver. Williams and Renault seem to be the only options with Kimi Raikkonen staying at Ferrari, so now Force India must prove that their team can compete at the top to keep everyone happy. If Force India finish fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, don’t be surprised to see Checo stay. If not, Perez might take his second leap of faith, hoping to jump on the right wagon at the right time.
The man has bags of talent and everyone involved with his future knows that. A strong end to the season by Force India could convince him to stay, but as of now, his home for 2017 is unknown.