McLaren accused of ‘wrongly interpreting’ Sergio Perez during horror 2013 campaign
Damon Hill has accused McLaren of “wrongly interpreting” Sergio Perez after they let him go after just one season.
Perez signed on as a McLaren driver in 2013, filling the rather large boots of Lewis Hamilton, but he spent a solitary season in the driver’s seat before being replaced by Kevin Magnussen.
In what was his third season in the sport, Perez finished 11th in the Drivers’ standings, 24 points behind team-mate Jenson Button.
Despite this early blow, Perez has gone onto bigger and better things, securing his first win in 2020 with Racing Point before helping Red Bull reclaim the Constructors’ title.
His fortunes are quite the opposite to McLaren’s who find themselves bottom of the 2023 standings, one of two teams yet to score a point.
Now, Damon Hill has accused McLaren of “wrongly interpreting” Perez during his troubled 2013 season.
“I’ve always been impressed with Checo from when he was leading that race [the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix] in Malaysia in the wet in the Sauber,” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast. “His first podium and I remember thinking ‘this guy’s good’.
“I’ve watched him throughout his career and I kept on saying ‘why does nobody give this guy a break?'”
Hill was then interrupted by host Tom Clarkson who suggested that McLaren gave him a break but Perez was not ready for it.
“That’s a very sad fact,” Hill responded. “I think he was wrongly interpreted. I think his laid back, relaxed style was interpreted by that team as diffident and not trying hard. But I just think that’s a mistake.
“I just think they decided he wasn’t a good fit for their mindset for what they wanted and I think it went wrong from there.
“He’s clawed his way back and he’s got himself into a place here. Now he’s in a team like Red Bull and he’s tough enough to cope with the pressure that you get in a team like Red Bull.
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“I won’t say it’s water off a duck’s back but if he was a younger driver, as we’ve seen in Red Bull, younger drivers get crushed by that environment, he’s not going to get crushed.”
While Perez has survived the opening stages of his Red Bull career, the next question is whether he can mount a serious title challenge against team-mate Max Verstappen but Hill was not convinced.
“I’m sure they [Red Bull] will [allow Perez to fight for the title],” Hill said. “But I think they will prefer Max to win and I think Max will ultimately prevail.
“I just don’t think that Checo has the ultimate speed and ruthlessness that Max does and the commitment to being quick.”