Despite having a contract with Force India for next year, Sergio Perez has made it crystal clear that he will be driving elsewhere in 2017.
The Mexican brings a real depth of sponsors with him, which is a bonus for any driver looking elsewhere. Despite having the financial backing of a pay driver, Perez delivers on race-day too. This season he’s been one of the best drivers outside the top three teams and has rightly drawn the attention of teams looking to be stronger in 2017.
Checo is one of those drivers that has proven himself time and time again, but where is he heading? Here is a comparison between what he said during the summer break of 2015 and what he’s saying now:
In 2015, Perez said,
“Obviously I have a contract with the team and, as you know, I have a group of sponsors and we’re trying to make the announcement all together. So from that respect it’s all clear.
We’re getting into the point where very soon things should be announced. I expect my plans to be announced hopefully before the next race.
My priority is to stay here. The team is going upwards and is really pushing, and I know the plans of the team so I am really happy to stay here.”
– Sergio Perez
Clear, undeterred commitment to Force India, you’d have been mad to see him going elsewhere. This year’s summer-break quote from Perez is something very different. He said after the German Grand Prix that,
“I will have a break to reflect on what we [Force India] have done.
There are a couple of options, very attractive options, but I haven’t made my decision yet.”
– Sergio Perez
These very attractive options are clearly offers from other teams. Renault are said to be after the Mexican with promises of works-team glory. A step down in terms of 2016 performance, but will Perez ever get the opportunity to craft a works team around him in his F1 career ever again? The last time a similar move was executed, Lewis Hamilton faced a sh*tstorm of criticism for demoting himself from the race-winning McLaren team to the midfield Mercedes works team – I doubt he’s looked back with regret anywhere near as much as most of the doom-saying journalists have.
“With the field as intensely competitive as ever, now is completely the wrong time to embark on such a project. As it now stands, one of the sport’s leading lights seems to have been sold a dream and a promise – if he can stick out the difficult first season, his gamble may come to fruition. Yet if he doesn’t, we might be watching the sad sight of a man with limitless potential and huge talent witnessing his chance to make a legacy rot away in mid-grid purgatory. That’s the risk, and it is hard to be convinced that it outweighs the potential glory” – Ed Owen, The Sports Review.
“I don’t see Lewis winning races in 2013 – and there has to be doubts that the car will be good enough in 2014. And it is easy for a lean couple of years to develop into something longer. Just look what happened to Jacques Villeneuve after he joined BAR having won the title in 1997. He never won another race. Lewis has got a tough task ahead of him at Mercedes. It is a gamble” – Allan McNish, Audi.
“Lewis Hamilton does not know much about racing history and so cannot learn from the mistakes of others. Perhaps he thinks that if it fails he will at least have the consolation of earning loads more money and being a bigger star, thanks to his hustling management that will sell his image here, there and everywhere. That might make him an international celebrity on a bigger scale than he is, but it will not make him a racing legend. Perhaps Mercedes will pull it off and then Hamilton will look clever, but I fear that this will be a move similar to James Hunt joining Wolf; Emerson Fittipaldi joining Fittipaldi, Jacques Villeneuve moving to BAR or Niki Lauda’s ill-fated move to Brabham. History relates that you do not leave a winning team in F1 unless it is to go to another proven winner…” – Joe Saward, GP+ e-magazine.
Similarly, Perez shouldn’t judge his move entirely on the performances of this year given the regulation overhaul that launches for 2017. He’ll be keeping his ears open to what teams have in place, how their 2017 challengers stack up behind closed doors.
It is also believed that Williams are giving Jenson Button the hurry-up on his decision to replace Felipe Massa. This could be because Perez is eager to make the side-step (in terms of 2016 performance) to Williams next season.
Perez will jump ship for 2017 because the Force India team has the impending issue of financial instability on its shoulders. Team owner Vijay Mallya is in so much debt that his native Indian passport has been revoked, and he’s banned from entering the country. This will start affecting the team and the irony is, Perez might find more stability at Enstone.