The last race of 2020 could have marked the end of Sergio Perez’s F1 career. And yet, ironically, he had just taken his first-ever Formula 1 victory. A win in Bahrain’s Sakhir Grand Prix was a brilliant achievement for the popular 31-year-old. A first lap error dropped him to last place, but he came through the field to record a remarkable feat.
Not only was Perez the first Mexican driver to win a Grand Prix for 50 years, but after 190 starts, it was also the longest wait a driver has ever had before standing on the top step of the podium in the history of Formula 1.
The only problem was that his team (Racing Point – now Aston Martin) had already decided to drop Perez for 2021. The man who had finished the championship fourth overall in the points’ standings faced the prospect of no longer racing in the sport. Thankfully Red Bull stepped in with a lifeline and signed him up for 2021.
Perez (who is nicknamed Checo) hails from the Mexican city of Guadalajara. At an early age, he left his homeland and lived in Germany to pursue a career in motor racing. With sponsorship from Mexico’s telecommunications company Telmex, Perez quickly proved his speed in the junior racing series in Europe and had the financial backing to match his talent.
After a series of impressive performances in his first year in F1 in 2012, Perez was promoted to top team McLaren in his second season. But a difficult campaign side-lined the Mexican. He found a new berth at the Force India team (which eventually was renamed Racing Point) and raced for seven years with the under-funded outfit, which enjoyed a reputation for regularly punching above their weight.
The Mexican is a bit of a specialist when it comes to street circuits. A third of his podiums have been achieved on these tracks including Monaco (2016) and the race on the streets of the Azerbaijan capital Baku (2016 & ’18). He also took the second win of his career in the 2021 Baku race with his new team Red Bull earlier this year.
All eyes will be on how Perez will take to the streets of Jeddah in December. His skill at taming a city’s streets, in combination with the speed of the Red Bull, will make the Mexican one of the favourites for victory at the first-ever Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.