Checo Pérez: from making desserts to survive to reach the elite of Formula 1

The Mexican driver Checo Pérez, during the preseason with Red Bull.  The helmet that he will use this year is modified with a Mexican flag.

Antonio Pérez, Checo’s father, received a call from Felipe Calderón, former president of Mexico. “Checo is going to win the race, I already bet,” he told him hours before the Sakhir Grand Prix started last December. Pérez, somewhat incredulous, thanked the gesture. No fervent Formula 1 analyst or the Pérez family expected the Mexican driver to win the race. And much less when in the first lap he finished relegated to last place. In one of the legendary races in history, he came out of the bottom to win, the first win in a 10-year career.

The 2020 season was a roller coaster for Sergio Czech Pérez (Guadalajara, 31 years old). He missed two championship dates after being infected with covid-19 last September, his old team, Racing Point, cut him from the group. “The hardest thing Sergio has experienced was the dismissal of Racing Point, despite the fact that he saved the team and all the workers,” Antonio Pérez, the driver’s father, tells EL PAÍS. Except for those moments of uncertainty, the only Latin American in Formula 1 closed his best season by finishing in fourth place in drivers with two podiums, including the victory in Sakhir.

Red Bull Racing had Checo Pérez in their sights and at the end of the season they announced him as their new driver. “He worked 20 years for this moment, it will be the most important episode of his life and I have advised him to enjoy it,” adds his father. The Mexican pilot began his career in the go karts in Guadalajara. The desire to be a professional driver led him to become one of the talents of the future of Escudería Telmex, an automotive project of the magnate Carlos Slim. At the age of 15 he packed his bags to move to live alone in Germany to climb in the motorsport divisions. “He is a boy who started working in a restaurant from Monday to Friday. He made desserts and on the weekends he ran ”, recalls Antonio Pérez.

After overcoming the lower categories, Checo Pérez made his Formula 1 debut with Sauber in 2011. With only two years on the track, McLaren signed him to be the replacement for Lewis Hamilton, although he could not shine in the team. His eight seasons at Force India / Racing Point earned him a podium finish ten times: triumph at Sakhir, three second places (Malaysia and Italy in 2012, and Turkey in 2020) and six third places (Canada, in 2012; Bahrain, in 2014; Russia in 2015, Monaco and Baku in 2016 and 2018).

Before signing for a year with his new team, Checo Pérez was at a crossroads. Not having a team or a great offer, the Mexican had announced that he preferred to retire from motorsport. His great season in 2020 was a brutal turn that put him in the showcase of the energy drink team. “Checo put it to him like this: ‘Either I get something forwards or nothing backwards,” recalls Antonio Pérez.

“Of all the Formula 1 teams you can put me on, it never crossed my mind that I could get to Red Bull. They are usually supporting the youth of their academy. Arriving from outside is special, ”Pérez said to his team’s communication team. Expectations for Checo Pérez have risen in Mexico. However, the pilot knows what his role in the team is: he will be the faithful squire of Max Verstappen, the main driver. “Sergio was not hired to get to fight with Max”, sums up Carlos Jalife, analyst of Formula 1 in the magazine FastMag. “Being the number twoThat could lead to the fact that if Sergio were to be ahead, it would not be unthinkable for the team orders to come into play and he would have to give way to his teammate, who is the one chosen to fight for the crown ”, adds Jalife.

Verstappen and Checo Pérez have the goal of dethroning Mercedes, a world champion construction company for the last seven years. The strategy will be based on how to directly attack Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton and how to get away from the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz Jr.

The day that the bull’s team boss, Chris Horner, called Sergio Pérez to confirm him as his driver, the Mexican invited his parents to a meal at his home. On the table was a cake of cupcakes that made up the Red Bull logo and several cans of the energy soda. Mexico, which is entrusted to Checo, already has a new favorite drink.

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