Perez benefits from clever Sauber strategy

Reuters

Sun, 25 Mar 17:34:00 2012

Sauber's Sergio Perez left his boss in tears as he stormed to a stunning second place finish at a wet Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, becoming the first Mexican to earn a Formula One podium in 41 years.

Perez's joy will be tempered by the fact that if he had stayed on a dry line when closing in on eventual winner Fernando Alonso's Ferrari with five laps to go, he would not have ran wide and could now be celebrating a famous victory.

"Thank you, thank you very much," emotional owner Peter Sauber told Perez over the team radio as the 22-year-old crossed the line to record their best result as an independent team.

Perez started from ninth on the grid and as the drizzle turned into a torrential downpour, Sauber gambled on pitting him at the end of the first lap to put on wet tyres as the others delayed, hoping for the rain to ease.

It was an inspired move that took him up to third place by the time the race was red flagged for 51 minutes after eight laps and the Mexican briefly led following the resumption before Alonso passed him on lap 17.

"Towards the end I had some understeer into a left-hand corner and I ran wide enough to go into the wet and then I just lost control of the car and went straight and lost the fight for the victory," Perez, who was ordered by Ferrari-powered Sauber to "be careful" just before the error, told reporters.

"But still, it's been a great effort for the team. They called me in at the right times. The conditions were very difficult to keep the car on the track and they have been incredible."

FERRARI LINK

Rumours in the paddock linking Perez with a mid-season move to Ferrari as a replacement for the struggling Felipe Massa are growing louder and what better way to audition for the role than to chase home your future team mate, matching him for pace.

Perez, however, was quick to play down the rumours when questioned over what he had said to Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali on the podium.

"I only congratulated him, as a team they did a great job," added Perez, whose previous best result was seventh at last season's British Grand Prix.

"My full commitment is with my team, with Sauber F1 team. It's only the second race of the season and there's still a long way to go, so we have to keep improving.

"Obviously it's only rumours but no, I will stay with Sauber for the whole season."

Sauber Chief Executive Monisha Kaltenborn can only see the team growing stronger after enjoying such an unexpected result.

"No disappointment at all. I think we should really be very happy and grateful at what we have achieved today," she said.

"It's a tremendous boost to the team in building up the confidence that we are heading in the right direction.

"At the same time, we really have to be careful and focus on our development because the gaps are very small and you don't know where you are at the next race. So we have to keep this momentum."

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