Sergio Perez is one of the biggest names in Mexico and one of the most successful drivers on the Formula 1 grid.
After finishing second in the standings in the 2010 GP2 Series, Checo joined the F1 the following year, signing for Sauber, with the Ferrari academy also adding him to their ranks.
He made a big impression on his debut, finishing in P7 thanks to the fact that he was able to make his tyres last long enough for him to pit just once unlike the rest of the field who did two stops - it was a skill he’d become renowned for in years to come. However, the result was taken away from him when both Sauber cars were disqualified for breaching technical regulations.
While he was made to wait for his first points though, that wait wasn’t a long one with him finishing P9 in Barcelona four rounds later. After that, he finished inside the top 10 four more times to end his rookie year with a very respectable 14 points, especially given he missed two races after injuring himself in a qualfiyng crash in Monaco.
It had been a solid debut season, and at the start of his second, things got spectacular as, in the second race in Malaysia, he put in a stunning performance, fighting Fernando Alonso for the win and ultimately finishing in P2.
That wouldn’t be the only top drive he delivered that year. He fought his way up from P15 to P3 in Canada, went from P17 to P6 in Germany, and picked up his third podium of the year in Monza, taking P2 after starting in P12. The Mexican finished the campaign in P10 in the standings with 66 points, six more than team-mate Kamui Kobayashi.
With him looking so good, most felt it was only a matter of time before he made the step up to Ferrari, but he cut ties with the Italian team when he made a shock move to McLaren for the 2013 season, replacing Lewis Hamilton.
There was a huge amount of excitement about the prospect of him driving a top car, but unfortunately for him, he never really got to that year with McLaren tumbling down the pecking order. And in terms of driving alone, things weren’t great either.
While he delivered a few strong performances such as his top-six finishes in Bahrain, India and Brazil, he was critcised for what many felt was overly aggressive driving, with him infuriating both team-mate Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen over the course of the year.
Checo finished the year in P11 in the standings with 49 points to his name, 24 less than Button, and it would prove to his only year as a McLaren driver with the British team opting to replace him with Kevin Magnussen.
He ended up back in the midfield with Force India, and it would prove to be a move that would not only restore but enhance his reputation.
In his first year with the team, he secured the fourth podium of his career in Bahrain but only picked up one further top-six finish and was out-performed by team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, scoring 37 points less. After that though, he came alive.
He enjoyed his best season yet in 2015, picking up one podium and four further top-six finishes on his way to P9 in the standings, with the Mexican’s final points-tally of 78 being comfortably higher than that of Hulkenberg’s and every other midfield driver.
Things then got even better the next year as he broke the 100-point barrier for the first time, scoring 101, and finished P7 in the championship - highlights that season included podiums in Monaco and Baku.
While he didn’t finish inside the top three once in 2017, it was still another strong year with him again taking P7 in the standings and scoring just one point less. He had now been the highest-scoring driver outside of a top team for three straight years and had very much established himself as the master of the midfield.
He wasn’t able to continue that streak for the next two years, finishing them in P8 and P10 as his team, rebranding from Force India to Racing Point, dropped down the pecking order. However, the 2020 campaign would more than make up for it.
Somewhat controversially, Racing Point opted to copy Mercedes’ design from the previous year, and while the approach’s ethics were questionable, it’s effectiveness wasn’t with the car being the third fastest on the grid for most of the year.
Checo made the most of that, enjoying his best ever season by quite some margin. He finished inside the top six in seven of the first 11 races that he competed in, missing two after testing positive for COVID-19, and in the closing stages of the campaign, his career reached new heights.
An excellent wet-weather drive in Turkey saw him finish in P2, and in the penultimate round of the year in Bahrain, he delivered his best ever performance to finally go one better, tasting victory for the first time after dropping back to last place at the start.
That win was enough to give him P4 in the championship, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it saved his career too.
With his team opting to replace him with Sebastian Vettel for 2021, he looked set to leave the grid, but so impressive was he that Red Bull chose to give him Alex Albon’s seat alongside Max Verstappen.
For the first time in his career, he was now in one of the best cars on the grid, and made the most of it pick in the second victory six races in at a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He then followed that up with another podium in France but struggled after that, failing to finish inside the top three for eight races and only finishing inside the top six in three of them.
He very much got to grips with his fast but tricky car in the final seven rounds though, finishing inside the top four five races in a row, and played a huge part in team-mate Verstappen’s title triumph.
In Turkey and the season finale in Abu Dhabi, he defended his position heroically when up against Hamilton - in the former, the Brit finished down in P5 rather than P3 as a result while in the latter, Perez’s defending allowed Verstappen to close the gap to his title rival by seven seconds, which was partly why the Dutchman was able to pass him and win the title on the final lap.
In the closing stages of that season, he’d looked better than ever, and with Red Bull keeping him around, there was reason to believe that, in an already successful career, the best was yet to come.