March 25, 2012 could have been a historic moment for Mexican sport, because after 42 years, a driver of that nationality could have returned to the top of the podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix. In a rare race of a crazy season in which there were seven different winners in the first seven races, Sergio Pérez and a surprising Sauber came close to entering the history books.
The 56 laps at Sepang were a demonstration of what the Guadajalara rider could bring in his career with a competitive single-seater, and if it hadn’t been for a mistake a few laps from the end at the penultimate hairpin, Checo could have overtaken Fernando Alonso to win his first Formula 1 Grand Prix and be the second youngest driver to do so.
However, the Mexican had to settle for a very creditable second position, since the Hinwil team had not been on the podium since the 2003 United States Grand Prix , when Heinz-Harald Frentzen was third, behind Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.
Pérez was just over two seconds away from touching glory, but his smile as he uncorked the champagne was a sign of how satisfied he was, as were his mechanics and Peter Sauber , the man behind the team’s continued competition.
“I was very close to Fernando [Alonso] there,” Checo said while watching the replay of the race. “We were pushing hard, but I think that as a team we thought more about the podium than about going for victory. It was going to be very risky to overtake Fernando because there was only one line”.
The rain was the key to the event in Malaysia, and if it hadn’t been for the dampness of the asphalt in the final laps, the Mexican could have attempted a move anywhere on the track.
“I remember going for him [for Alonso], my team was quiet and it was like they were waiting to see what would happen, we are going to secure the podium and go for the victory,” explained Checo. “It was very, very close.”
“I think I lacked a bit of experience to beat Fernando, who had a fantastic race, because we were a bit faster than him, but I couldn’t get close enough to overtake him on the straight,” continued the Mexican. “In those moments, I was thinking of going for the win, but the team, on the other hand, told me to bring the car back home, and it was difficult conditions, because we were on slick tires on a wet asphalt that was drying up. , but it wasn’t quite.
“It was two different scenarios, and I lost my concentration a bit, but it was fun to be like this with Fernando. If I had two more laps, I would have caught him and put more pressure on him,” said Sergio Pérez as he watched his mistake at the hairpin.
“I went a little long at the apex of the curve and I went out,” he acknowledged. “I was more nervous for my team, because I wanted to make sure that I would achieve that result, but I was in a position to put pressure on Fernando. I lacked a bit more experience in Formula 1.”
“It was my first podium in the category, and my team was not used to that at the time, so second place was a great result for us,” concluded the now Red Bull driver with a proud face.