Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Guadalajara native Checo Pérez wins his first Formula 1; first for a Mexican since 1970

In his 190th start, Guadalajara native Sergio Pérez won his first Formula One race on Sunday at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

Best known by his nickname Checo, the 30-year-old Racing Point driver qualified fifth on the grid but dropped back to last place after his car was clipped by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on the opening lap and he was forced into the pits.

But Pérez was able to make up the ground he lost and took the checkered flag ahead of Frenchman Esteban Ocon of the Renault team and his Racing Point teammate Lance Stroll of Canada.

It was Pérez’s 10th podium finish in an almost decade-long Formula One career and his second in 2020 but the first time that he occupied the highest position. His victory was the first for a Mexican F1 driver since Pedro Rodríguez won the 1970 Belgian Grand Prix.

“I’m a bit speechless,” Pérez said before his trip to the podium.

Pérez's car at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.
Pérez’s car at the Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.

“I hope I’m not dreaming, you know, because I dreamed so many years of being in this moment. Ten years, 10 years it took me. Incredible. I mean, I don’t know what to say,” he said.

“After the first lap the race was again gone – same as last weekend. But it was all about not giving up, recovering, going for it, just making the best of what you possibly could. This season the luck hasn’t been with us, but we finally got it.”

While Pérez is in the best form of his career, he is not a guaranteed starter in the 2021 Formula One championship because German driver Sebastian Vettel will take his place on the Racing Point team for the upcoming season.

His only possibility to be on the F1 grid in 2021 appears to be with the Red Bull Racing team.

Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll, who decided to drop Pérez from his 2021 roster in September, said he hopes Red Bull signs the Mexican speedster.

“Checo has been a fantastic asset,” he said referring to Pérez’s six-year stint with Racing Point.

Pérez is 'the most reliable driver on the grid:
Pérez is ‘the most reliable driver on the grid:’ Carlos Slim.

“He’s been an asset to this team a long time before I arrived. He most definitely proves every weekend that he deserves to be in a car next year. And I hope he’s in … Red Bull.”

Carlos Slim Domit, whose company Grupo Carso has a sponsorship deal with Pérez, said he expects the driver will have more F1 success even if he doesn’t compete in next year’s championship.

“I’m sure that we’re going to have Checo for a while [yet] regardless of what happens next season. It doesn’t depend on us, it will depend on what decision the [Red Bull] team takes after Abu Dhabi,” Slim said referring to the last F1 race of the 2020 season.

“I have no doubt that he is the most reliable driver on the grid, he’s a driver who always ends races in the points, he’s always fighting for a podium position. I have no doubt that the best option for any team is Pérez.”

The driver himself admitted that his future is up in the air but expressed confidence that he’ll be on the grid in 2022 if not next year.

“[The win in Bahrain] gives me a bit more peace with myself to be honest,” Pérez said when asked whether his maiden victory will help him secure an F1 job next year.

“What happens is not so much in my hands at the moment but … I want to keep going. So if I’m not on the grid next year I will be back in ’22.”

Source: El Universal (sp), ESPN (sp), Formula 1 (en) 

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