It is consummately simple to think about the Singapore Grand Prix as being a modern race, the first to be run under floodlights, on a new circuit, around a prestigious harbour development. Yet, prior to gaining its independence, in 1963, the original 1961 ‘Orient Year Grand Prix’, which was renamed ‘Malaysian GP’ was run on the Old Thomson Road route around Singapore, much like similar city center racing venues in Berlin, Germany, and Barcelona, Spain.
Is that a "Hook 'Em" sign he's throwing up? Image courtesy of Sauber Motorsport AGSunday's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepand International Circuit was exciting and filled with endless complications, making it stressful and thrilling at the same time. Rain plagued the event from the beginning to the end, pushing some behind while opening gaps for others. Fernando Alonso of Ferrari took the lead with Mexico's Sergio Perez of Sauber F1 Team racing just seconds behind. A fight to the bitter end, the potential of Perez to take the podium over Alonso seemed inevitable, with Sergio gaining almost half a second a lap on Alonso consistently.
While pushing the limit to fight with Alonso, Perez made a costly error with just 5 laps to go, ending his chances to take the lead. In post-race interviews, Perez asserted he could have taken the win, and with the exception of his error near the end, his argument was well justified.
Ferrari's return to the podium for first position marks the end of a difficult streak lasting since the British GP last summer, their last race win. With a lackluster pre-season testing session and a significant difference so far this year between Alonso and his teammate Felipe Massa, Ferrari is not firing on all cylinders so to speak. Felipe Massa managed a lackluster 15th place, showing a stark contrast between him and Alonso and putting himself in a vulnerable position for future replacement.
Rumors have been developing over the last several months of Ferrari replacing Massa with Perez. Ferrari are of course keen to retake their dominance, but as the Red Bull/McLaren threat remains very, very real, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Ferrari looking to replace Felipe Massa with another talented young driver.
Sergio's second place finish just seconds behind Alonso was certainly a harsh dose of reality to the Maranello, Italy based team. Massa, like Perez, got his start in F1 with Peter Sauber's team before making his move to Ferrari in 2005 after a three year stint and two 4th place positions under his belt.
Rumors of a Perez move to Ferrari are still just rumors at this point, but while watching Sergio this weekend, it's clear he's auditioning for a better seat in F1, and that may not be that far off.
Not only are the eyes of the F1 club all over Sergio right now, but his home country is beginning to embrace their future star. Following Sergio's second place finish on Sunday, social networks were full of congratulatory messages, including a tweet from Mexican President, Felipe Calderon.
Loosely translated: Congratulations to Sergio Perez for second place prize at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Extraordinary race!
Sergio's finish is the first time a Mexican driver has stood on the podium since Pedro Rodriguez in 1971. Seeing Perez with a big smile on his face on the podium brought joy and thrill to his loyal fans and fellow countrymen and women. This position was his best in F1 and hopefully the first of many for the young Mexican.
Perez and the Sauber team took a trip to Mexico last year to put on a street demo at an enthusiastic and well attended event. Though his impact on the culture of Central America is largely under-represented by the European dominated sport of F1, this story deserves far more attention, especially considering the construction of Circuit of The Americas, just a few hundred miles away from the US-Mexico border.
Here's Sergio doing the street demo in his home town of Guadalajara: