Editor’s Note: This Op/Ed was penned by Paul Gerrard. Mr. Gerrard is a dear friend of F1B’s own Paul Charsley and is a professional driver having driven for Volvo in the World Challenge as well as participated as back up to Tanner Faust in events such as this one. We’ve been discussing the actions of Sergio Perez since the beginning of the year with his aggressive nature on his own teammate to the passes he made at the Monaco Grand Prix. Here is Paul’s take on Sergio Perez.
Much talk recently in Formula 1 about the embattled Mr. Perez and his rather roller coaster of a season thus far. He started in Melbourne being branded as too passive “no please, I’m in no hurry, after you I insist :)” to in the last few races as someone that seemingly has his throttle stuck open and his brakes fade each time he is behind another car (a slight exaggeration but you get the point). The F1 media spin machine hem and haw about the ethics and merits of his current approach and from one moment to the next his team or teammate either support him or don’t. Under each online article readers rehash ad nausium, lather, rinse, repeat right?
The question seems to be centered on whether he is currently too aggressive or not. Let’s ask this to get to the bottom of it… are his passes to aggressive or are his passing attempts too aggressive? They are two separate distinct things.
Aggressive passes are actually good to do as a racing driver. Drivers (and anyone that has studied motorsports) consider these passes to be decisive and that is the best type of pass to preform because it offers control of your adversary. It is set up before hand and decisively executed in a viable passing area, usually out braking and staying close to the car being overtaken not turning in until you intercept the racing line. At turn in you must be even with the now passed car to have it officially be “your corner” and no coincidence, this is how you eliminate the possibility of an “over under” repass. So if that’s how it is done properly, what is Mr. Perez doing repeatedly enough to raise the ire of his peers and enlightened observers?
A poor passing attempt (why it ends up being an attempt and not a pass) is typically ill-conceived (no real plan), opportunistic (it’s a better word than aggressive here) and often executed late with the passing driver popping out and driving early to the apex in a desperate attempt to get ahead by driving a shorter distance. The problem is how tight and slow it makes the exit (you’re setting yourself up to be re-passed because of the super tight radius you have to follow if you have any hope of staying on the track).
They are also setting themselves up for mid-corner contact because their tight radius has them going slowly while the driver they are attempting to pass in on the normal much bigger radius therefore traveling faster. They are also potentially now side by side in the corner, There is only clean line in the corner wide enough for one car so it slows them both down and has a high rate of contact because they both desperately want to keep their tires clean. That’s why good passes are done before the turn as it enables both cars to continue with minimum time lost so they are not hurting their collective shot at moving forward or staying ahead of those behind.
Then there is the ultimate, the poor example above tried in an area in which there is no room to actually make a pass (double negative evidently does not make a positive in this case). Of course It is also ill conceived to plan and attempt to properly execute a pass in an area where there is not the required room to pass (like most places at Monaco). Any of the combinations is not worthy of a driver in Formula 1… there I said it.
By the time you reach F1 you are supposed to be a professional, what does that mean? You shouldn’t be in an F1 car looking like you have the judgement of some immature kid in a Kart or a Formula Ford. Everyone tries this stuff when they were young, but, race by race you matured, you learned to plan and to set up your opponents to control them as you pass them. You learned to make safe decisive passes that stick and learned not to be tempted by risky low percentage “opportunities”. By the time you’re running competitively in F3, let alone GP2, the team and other drivers will expect a more professional approach from your racing, you shouldn’t be “winging it” any more and you should be smart enough to realize your not driving a $10k Kart or a $50k Formula Ford at the marginal relative speeds they can approach, you’re with the big boys now, ultra high stakes, ultra high speed stuff. Your race craft should be pretty impeccable.
Not having good race craft is decidedly not being too aggressive, this is simply being immature and unprofessional and really there is no place for it in F1(except maybe last corner last lap…I’m a realist OK). Is he the only one? Heck no, Roman Grosjean had a bit of a run last year. I think we all remember him looking like some “kid” in a Formula Ford trying to burn through his college money as fast as possible. We as fans and the professional teams and drivers that have to race with these guys deserve better.
This of course is a symptom of the state of pro motorsports generally (we see this from Le Mans to Indy and everywhere in between). Paying level drivers who on the one hand fill the grid keeping the wheels of motorsports commerce turning but conversely affecting the quality and purity of what we witness in the very sport we love so much. The irony of course that while Mr. Perez is driving like a paying driving and should be by all rights a paying driver he is in fact a decently paid F1 driver!
The thing that set me off to write this was Mr. Perez ,after Monaco, flatly and somewhat proudly proclaimed “I am doing nothing wrong” with, I might add, Martin Whitmarsh’s blessing. I would expect (and usually see) better behavior, maturity and introspection from a front runner at the Formula Ford Festival. Can Mr. Perez change his spots? Yes of course he can, he will have to or he will find himself alone without a ride quite quickly (McLaren is still backing him mainly out of pride, they are still stinging from the disaster that was loosing Lewis Hamilton).
I am resolutely not saying F1 drivers should be boring and predictable when they drive, you will never win a race with that attitude but to be great, to win championships you must be able to think clearly (focused/planning) and realistically (know what’s actually possible at any given moment) while you are being very aggressive (decisive), that’s how to get it done, moving forward, earning race wins, championships and respect, a top tier professional.