Youth on a charge in Formula 1

2012-03-27 07:09

LONDON, England - Even if the 2012 Malaysian F1 GP ultimately stands out as an aberration, with Fernando Alonso celebrating an unlikely Ferrari victory, it could be a defining moment in the careers of Sergio Perez and Bruno Senna.

In a rain-hit race that may also have hastened Felipe Massa's departure from Maranello the two Latin American drivers stood out.

"He was a revelation." McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said of Perez, who finished second for Sauber to become the first Mexican on the F1 podium for 41 years. "I imagine," he told Sky TV with a mischievous grin, "he's put a bit of pressure on Massa, that's my guessing on that one.

"I don't know what the odds are for him switching teams before China but I think there must be some consideration there."


Whitmarsh's 2008 World champion Lewis Hamilton clashed repeatedly with Massa in 2011.

Cynics might say that the odds on the 22-year-old Perez joining Ferrari will only have been enhanced by his failure to pass Alonso, now the championship leader, in the closing laps.

The Mexican is also a Ferrari driver, a member of the Italian team's youth academy who occasionally tests in the Ferrari simulator, while his team uses Ferrari engines.

Ferrari, with an ugly car that proved uncompetitive in the 2012 Australian season opener, were desperate for a morale-boosting victory at Sepang after the weather played into their hands and Perez looked like being the only man who could stop them.

While there was no evidence of any collusion - indeed Peter Sauber dismissed any suggestion of a team order - the Mexican's performance announced his arrival as a real talent.


It will also have been welcomed in Austin, the Texan city due to stage the closest race to Mexico when F1 returns to the US, Ferrari's biggest export market, in November, 2012.

The perception of Perez as a “pay” driver – he was given his opportunity in F1 through his links with key Mexican sponsors that include the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, now looks like a footnote to a much more promising story.

Brazilian Massa, whose future at Ferrari is under increasing scrutiny, was 15th in Sepang. He retired in Melbourne.

He has not been on the podium since 2010 and the paddock speculation is moving up a gear race by race, even as Ferrari tries to dampen it.

Senna, nephew of late triple champion Ayrton, was the quickest Brazilian on track at Sepang and triggered a reappraisal of his talents with a fine drive to sixth from stone last at the re-start. His eight points were more than Williams managed through the whole of 2012 but it was the manner in which he grabbed them that stood out.


His overtaking move on Michael Schumacher, Ayrton's old rival, was rich in symbolism but it also indicated that he too could be much more than a driver who owed his place to sponsorship as much as speed.

Former F1 driver and Sky commentator Martin Brundle declared: "For the first time now I believe Bruno Senna can cut it in F1. I haven't seen anything until now that convinced me the way this does."

The third GP of the 20-race will be in Shanghai, China, on April 15.