I really feel for Sergio Pérez right now, I do. The guy had a hell of a weekend, ran an incredible race in Bahrain only to be rewarded with an engine failure with a handful of laps remaining in the Grand Prix. He was on track for a podium and a strong fourth in the driver’s championship points standings, despite missing two races with a positive Coronavirus test earlier this year. He has outperformed his Racing Point teammate, Lance Stroll, this season through consistency and regularly landing in points scoring finishes. He was unceremoniously abandoned by the team in favor of Sebastian Vettel, who has scored even fewer points than Stroll despite being a former four-time world champion in a better funded car.
It’s a rough time for young Checo Pérez, but despite having serious backing from sponsors, a reliable driving record, ten years of experience in the sport, and coming off his best F1 season, he doesn’t have a ride in 2021. Pérez held a press conference on Monday to plead his case for taking over Alex Albon’s Red Bull seat next year, which Christian Horner says is still a possibility, but the team want Albon to succeed, and it seems unlikely that he will be dropped from the roster next year.
If begging Red Bull for a ride next year doesn’t work out, Sergio has stated that he will take a sabbatical from the sport in order to focus on getting a seat for the 2022 season. And while it is true that some racers have left F1 and returned to relative success, including Fernando Alonso who returns for 2021 after two seasons away, and Kimi Raikkonen, I remain unconvinced that Pérez can mount a return after time away like those former champions could. If this Red Bull seat doesn’t materialize, it’s time for Checo to move on.
The man is clearly quite competitive in the sport. It would be incredible to see him step into a top-class Formula E or IndyCar seat to see what he could accomplish in one of those arenas. It takes a level of competitiveness to compete in Formula One, and while he says that absent an F1 ride he will take a year to determine whether he even needs motorsport in his life in the future, it seems to me that he’ll last no more than a few weeks without a race before he realizes how much it really means to him. While he’s still young, it’s time to take on a new challenge after a decade of F1.
If he does make it into a Red Bull seat, he’s still got a chance at sticking around another couple of years, and maybe even winning a championship. If Red Bull chooses to stick with the frankly milquetoast results of Albon, that’s it for Pérez. I don’t think he can come back from that, and even if he could, it would be with a middling team.
He should sit down and ask himself if he wants to wait a year for the opportunity of fighting for mid-pack results in F1 or try to secure a lower-tier formula seat with a more competitive team. Hell, I bet there are some Hypercar teams looking for drivers in WEC, he could ply his trade in endurance, as he’s well known to be quite smooth and easy on tires.
Ultimately, I think that it was a ridiculous mistake of Racing Point to walk away from one of the best scoring non-Mercedes drivers on the grid for *spits* Seb Vettel. But it would be an even bigger mistake for Sergio to bank his future in racing on the chance of something unlikely. Better to be the big, consistent, race-winning fish in a smaller pond than a mid-pack minnow in the ocean of F1.