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Tapatio race ace may have bright red future

October 24, 2011

As many of the world’s best athletes compete in the Pan American Games, one of the city’s most accomplished sportsmen was in Korea, looking to prove himself among the motor sport elite.

With three Grand Prix remaining, Sergio “Checo” Perez has a total of 13 points and currently sits 16th out of 28 drivers in the 2011 Formula One World Championship.

This is a more than respectable outcome for the 21-year old Tapatio’s debut season  in Formula One. Indeed, Perez has shown such promise that by 2013 he may well find himself driving the world famous red race cars of Ferrari.

Perez is the fifth Mexican to compete in Formula One and the first since Hector Rebaque in 1977–81. Despite a disappointing 16th place finish in Korea this week, he claimed four points in the previous weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix by finishing 8th, his second best result of the season to date.

Although Perez impressed in his debut race in Australia, passing the chequered flag in seventh place and uniquely stopping just once to change tyres, both Sauber cars were subsequently disqualified for infringing technical regulations. In July he managed to repeat the feat of finishing seventh in an exiting British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

“He has delivered a couple of solid results already, with well controlled races while stopping less times for new tyres than almost everyone else,” said BBC commentator Martin Brundle. “Perez is also part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and now is his chance to justify the investment and belief.”

Last month the young Mexican was invited to a test drive in Fiorano Circuit, Ferrari’s private racetrack in Italy. With a potentially huge career leap forward at stake, Perez handled the F60-2009 aggressively but flawlessly, returning it to the garage without a scratch and a best lap time of 1:00.6 minutes.

His performance caught the attention of Baldisieri Luca, director of the Ferrari Driver Academy, who refused to compare Perez with any other driver, saying that “has its own style.” Baldisieri also stated he was pleasantly surprised by Perez’s ability to adapt to a very different car from that which he is accustomed to driving.

While Fernando Alonso is the current Ferrari team leader, his partner Felipe Massa has not fully recovered his form since suffering a serious accident in 2009, and his contract will expire at the end of the 2012 season. So Perez will most likely be competing with current Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi for a place in the 2013 Ferrari team.

However, team boss Stefano Domenicali made it clear that both drivers now want to remain in their respective teams to gain more experience: “Bianchi is a great talent and had a good season in the GP2 series, but he needs to grow and gain experience. Regarding Sergio, he has a contract with Sauber and also needs to prepare more.”

Perez also outlined his commitment to his current team: “Right now Sauber is my priority, what is being said is just speculation, but obviously it would not displease me to race with (Ferrari) someday.”

In the more immediate future, Perez will be looking to finish the season strongly, with the aim of winning the “2011 Rookie of the Year” award. He is up against Pastor Maldonado of Williams, Paul Di Resta of Force India; and Jerome D’Ambrosio of Virgin Racing.

A podium finish in one of the remaining races would almost guarantee Perez the prize and would do no harm at all to his chances of joining Ferrari.

The young Tapatio is unlikely to be daunted by the task. With no shortage of confidence, he has already stated that “within five years” he will be Formula One champion.

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