McLaren's Sam Michael insists under-fire Sergio Perez 'just racing' despite criticism
Sporting Director insists complainants have all made similar moves
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 05/06/13 5:31pm
McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael has staunchly defended Sergio Perez in wake of the barrage of stinging criticism levelled at the Mexican from fellow drivers since the Monaco GP.
For the second time in his first six races of his McLaren career Perez found himself on the receiving end of rivals' ire following the last grand prix for what they perceived were his overly aggressive overtaking moves.
By far the most outspoken critic was the usually placid Kimi Raikkonen who suggested that Perez should be "hit in the face" in order to teach him a lesson after they clashed at the harbourside chicane, an incident which wrecked both drivers' races.
Fernando Alonso, albeit in less dramatic fashion, and Raikkonen's Lotus boss Eric Boullier were also critical of the Mexican's driving standards, but ahead of F1's return to action in Canada, McLaren chief Michael has made clear the team themselves have felt no need to rebuke Perez.
Asked in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in if the team had felt the need to sit down with their driver in wake of his driving in Monaco, Michael replied: "It's an interesting question but ultimately he's a racing driver and he's just racing.
"All of the moves that he did are all moves that have been done by all of those drivers at various points in their career - some recently and some long ago. The overtaking opportunities that are available at the chicane in Monaco are the ones that have been used for a long time before Checo Perez was even born.
"Ultimately he's racing for his position. He's establishing himself and the racing that's he's doing all those other drivers have done themselves and that's Formula 1. It was obviously hard racing but that's what F1's meant to be able."
Coincidence or not, Perez has been noticeably more aggressive in his driving since being urged by his team boss Martin Whitmarsh to "get his elbows out" following a low-key start to his McLaren career in Australia and Malaysia.
While acknowledging the 23-year-old went through a period of "transition" following his winter move from Sauber, Michael says the team's management have been pleased with how he has since taken the fight to elder stable-mate Jenson Button, support him and are happy for him to continue driving as he is.
"His team-mate's got at least ten years more experience in Formula 1 than he does and he's a World Champion, so he's a hard guy to match, and Checo's doing well against him," Michael added.
"I think he's a talented driver. The way that he's racing at the moment, McLaren support what he's doing from inside the company, and we're fully behind Checo as long as he just keeps developing. He definitely went through a transition but in the last two or three races he's been able to really mix it on pace with his team-mate, which is good. As long as he keeps going in that direction, that's all that matters to us.
"Technically I think that he knows what he wants from the car and he's quite explicit about that with all the engineers and he's good for the level of experience that he's got."