Checo Pérez tamed the red buffalo at home. The Red Bull driver finished third at the Mexico City Grand Prix, which no Mexican had ever achieved. The race, to the frenzy of Red Bull, was taken by Max Verstappen. Hamilton took second place.
Before Pérez, the best place for a Mexican was Pedro Rodríguez in 1968 when he finished fourth. The past experiences of today’s Red Bull driver hadn’t been so pleasant after finishing seventh in 2017 and 2019.
Pérez started from fourth position. He had expectations of taking advantage of the straight and doing teamwork alongside Max Verstappen. And so it happened. At the start Valtteri Bottas, leader of the race, crashed against Daniel Ricciardo. That opened the way for Pérez to get off the track and then come back. He went up one position, although he was looking askance at Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman who wants to win back Red Bull. Verstappen went squarely to the lead. Then came the safety car to cool down the race because Tsunoda and Schumacher’s cars were knocked out. Bottas, the winner of the pole, ended up in the background.
The relaunch was another opportunity to overtake. Checo Pérez focused on protecting himself from Gasly and trying not to lose sight of Hamilton. That partial third place was the greatest joy for all checomaniacs in the stands. “My tires are getting better,” Perez said on turn 16 when he was performing better. The one from Guadalajara put pressure.
“These guys are very fast for us,” Hamilton launched into the Red Bull drivers in a comment between truth and strategy. “I can not get away from him,” insisted the British in reference to Checo Pérez. “We are going to shorten the distance,” the engineers asked the Mexican. Hamilton came out on lap 30 to change tires. The Briton had dropped to fifth place, but soon moved up to third place after his rivals changed tires: Gasly and Sainz.
On lap 33, Verstappen entered the pits. Perez took the lead in the race for six laps to show off to his crowd and wait for Verstappen to get close so Red Bull wouldn’t lose the lead. On turn 41, the Mexican came out and was behind Hamilton. The tire change, this time, was very good with a time of 2.2 seconds. “How far is Checo from Lewis?” Asked Verstappen. The Mexican, lap by lap, was counting seconds on the stopwatch. With 11 laps to go, Pérez caught up with him to get within range to pass him. Hamilton devoted himself to suffering to protect himself.
The challenge was to overcome a seven-time Formula 1 champion. The expertise of the king of the track helped him take cover against the Mexican. Lagging cars, like Fernando Alonso, opened the gaps for Mercedes and Red Bull to attack each other. “Spend everything!” Perez was asked to do his best on the final lap and it was insufficient. History for the Mexican for the happiness of his family. “Let’s go get some tequilas!” Perez launched upon reaching the garages. Checo was hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates, as if he had won the race in front of 372,000 fans at the Hermanos Rodríguez racetrack. Verstappen celebrated with him with the Mexican flag.
Verstappen leads the World Cup with 312.5 points compared to 293.5 for Hamilton. Checo Pérez takes fourth place in drivers with 165, ahead of Lando Norris (150). Pérez will leave his country with a larger record: 15 podiums. His people were carried away by the outburst of the moment with ovations. At the mythical Angel of Independence, groups of fans came out to celebrate the achievement of the only Latin American in the Formula 1 elite.
The 15 podiums of Checo Pérez
Checo Pérez continues to broaden his career in Formula 1. He already has 15 podiums since his debut in 2011. The Mexican registers two victories in Formula 1: 2020 in Shakhir and 2021 in Baku. In addition to three second places (Malaysia and Italy in 2012, and Turkey in 2020) and 10 third places (Canada, in 2012; Bahrain, in 2014; Russia, in 2015, Monaco and Baku in 2016 and 2018, in the Grand Prix of France, Turkey, the United States and Mexico City in 2021). The account does not want to stop.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.