Analysis - Perez: harshly treated or wrong man for McLaren?

Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:52pm EST
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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Sergio Perez arrived at McLaren in January desperate for success, talking of fighting for wins and Formula One titles, and less than a year later the Mexican will walk away with his goals more distant than ever.

Questions will be asked about whether the 23-year-old was ever the right man for McLaren, a driver signed in a hurry late last year when 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton decided to jump ship and join Mercedes.

There will be others, particularly in Mexico, who will wonder just how much of a chance he was really given to prove himself.

Formula One is a cruel arena, a world where harsh commercial realities stamp on sentiment, but Perez might have expected more time after being handed one of the worst racing cars McLaren have built in decades.

He arrived at Woking as the first Mexican in more than 40 years with a real chance of winning a grand prix. At mid-table Sauber, he had finished on the podium three times last year.

Ferrari, who had brought him up through their academy, had said he was not ready for them as a replacement for Felipe Massa but McLaren thought otherwise and snapped him up to fill Hamilton's shoes.

"We undoubtedly believe we can develop him into a world champion in fairly short order," team principal Martin Whitmarsh told reporters at the time.

More ominously, in retrospect, he added: "You come to McLaren and you've got the scrutiny and the pressure. And you either do well and survive, or he will struggle.   Continued...

McLaren Formula One driver Sergio Perez of Mexico drives during the qualifying session of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Yas Island, November 2, 2013. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah