Sergio Perez has impressed since the moment he stepped into an F1 car. He drives incredibly smoothly, and displays patience and maturity beyond his years to get great results out of a car that is not bad, but arguably not a front-runner. For some time it has been clear that he deserves a drive with a top team, and such an opportunity arose when McLaren asked him to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton.
This season has seen three particularly impressive drives from Perez. In Malaysia he came second to Fernando Alonso in very difficult weather conditions, a mistake in the closing stages ending what looked like a realistic shot at victory. The Canadian Grand Prix saw another mature drive, this time in the dry, to take third place from 15th on the grid. Most recently, the young Mexican made superb use of his tyres at Monza to finish second from 12th on the grid.
Although McLaren certainly wanted to keep Lewis Hamilton, his departure leaves them with the opportunity to nurture a young talent. Jenson Button is staying with the team for the foreseeable future, which provides the driver line-up with the experience needed to take McLaren forward. Perez can learn from his more experienced team-mate and use his own considerable talent to develop himself into a world-class driver.
For McLaren, the loss of Hamilton may prove to be a blessing in disguise. Perez will demand a lower salary than Hamilton, which leaves more of the budget available to develop the car. Considering that McLaren will have to pay for their Mercedes engines for the first time in 2013, any such financial flexibility will be most welcome.
Perez has landed firmly with his bum in the butter. After only two years in Formula One, he finds himself with a drive at the second most successful team in Formula One history (after Ferrari, of course) at a time when the team has been getting more and more competitive. He should realistically be a title contender in 2013, perhaps even more so than Hamilton will be at Mercedes.