|© AP Photo/Mark Baker
Sergio Perez’s signing as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton has come under scrutiny after the Mexican registered the worst start for a McLaren debutant in 20 years.
In 1993, the then newly-signed McLaren driver Michael Andretti, son of 1978 champion Mario, failed to finish his first three races that season and was eventually dropped after 13 Grands Prix.
The 11 subsequent new signings at the Woking-based outfit managed to do much better in their opening three races, which included Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton all stepping up on the podium while Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button registered wins.
Other drivers included Martin Brundle, Mark Blundell, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Pedro de la Rosa and Heikki Kovalainen; all fared better than Perez in their early outings with McLaren, according to statistics compiled by the Daily Mail.
Ever since Perez was announced as a McLaren driver, after the Singapore Grand Prix last year, he failed to score in his final six outings with Sauber and has scored just two points this season, as opposed to teammate Button’s 12.
Prior to the McLaren announcement last season, Perez had scored 66 points in 14 races, crowned with three podium finishes. The results validate John Watson's comments when he said the team has "one and a half drivers" this season.
At the Chinese Grand Prix, in which he crashed during Friday practice, the 23-year-old had a difficult afternoon as he finished 11th, making up just one place from the starting grid.
"It wasn’t my best weekend in terms of pace, so there’s some work to do," he confessed admitting that Button, who was fifth, found a better rhythm and made his strategy work.
Hamilton had reported that Perez was “all over the place” during the race, in which the McLaren driver clashed with Kimi Raikkonen.
"What the hell is he doing?" the Finn shouted over the radio, complaining that the McLaren rookie had pushed him off the circuit, in an incident which compromised the Lotus driver's race.
But McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh kept faith, saying that his driver was a “bit more robust” in Shanghai, suggesting that he was improving.
"I think he's been very polite so far this year, I think he needs to toughen up," Whitmarsh was quoted saying by Reuters. "I think he's been generous in allowing people past him.
“I've seen people weave more than that, if that's the assertion. He was doing his job, he was racing," he smiled.
"You've got to be out there racing and that means sometimes you've got elbows," he added. "It's right that you've got to be robust without being dirty."