The Sahara Force India team has announced that Sergio Pérez will drive for the team next year.
The Mexican – who was sacked by McLaren after just one season with the team – has signed a “multi-year” deal to race for the Silverstone-based team.
Pérez will partner Nico Hülkenberg for the 2014 Formula 1 season. The German’s appointment was confirmed a little over a week ago.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome Sergio to the team. He brings a healthy mix of youth and experience, and I’ve been very impressed with his recent performances. He already has several podium finishes to his name,” Force India team principal Vijay Mallya said.
“He clearly has great speed and plenty of fire in his belly. Our job is to make sure he settles in quickly by creating the right atmosphere so that he can realise his potential. By pairing Sergio alongside Nico, we enter the new season with an extremely competitive line-up, which will go toward helping us achieve our goals for the new season.”
“Coming here was always my first choice and I’m really happy everything has now been confirmed,” added Pérez in the team’s media release.
“It’s all change for next season with the new regulations, but I already have a good feeling about 2014. My plan now is to visit the factory and get to know everyone in the team.”
While the exact duration of Pérez’s contract is not known, the announcement of his appointment is expected to be followed by several significant sponsorship deals as his Mexican backers – headed by Carlos Slim’s Telmex group – are set to follow the 23-year-old to his new employer.
The team has been the subject of intense speculation over its cashflow, as the team receives little in the way of external sponsorship – most sponsor stickers on the car are subsidiary companies owned by Mallya’s United Breweries empire.
That could be about to change, with this week’s news that the Dutch brewing giant, Heineken, has now become the majority shareholder of UBL, and this could not only change its management structure, but how much money continues to flow into the team.
Mallya had to surrender ownership of UBL’s spirits arm, United Spirits, to the British Diageo distillery group as a result of the massive debts he incurred with his failed Kingfisher Airlines.
A further complication is the financial mess that Force India co-owner, Roy Sahara, has managed to get himself into. He has been ordered to offload some $3.2 billion in securities to creditors following a ruling by India’s Supreme Court.
Regardless of the financial whirlwind, Pérez’s appointment has ensured that the team’s 2013 drivers, Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, are both on the job market.
Sutil was believed to have re-signed with the team, but evidently that deal has been ripped up now that he has certainly been outbid by Pérez’s backers. He may try his hand at landing one of the seats at Sauber, but the Swiss team’s finances still remain under a cloud.
While the German impressed in his return to the sport after a year on the sidelines, he doesn’t enjoy quite the same commercial backing of a number of off-contract drivers trying to compete for the few remaining seats on the grid – his main rivals would certainly be Caterham drivers Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, as well as Max Chilton.
For di Resta, the announcement almost certainly spells the end of his three-year stint racing in Formula 1. The 2010 Mercedes-backed DTM champion arrived into F1 amid much fanfare, and although he beat Sutil in the intra-team battle this year, his performances and attitude have been very inconsistent.
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