F1 veteran Jo Ramirez has high hopes for Perez

(L to R): Sergio Perez (MEX) Barwa Addax Team with Jo Ramirez (MEX). Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday 11 July 2010.

Jo Ramirez with Sergio Perez

Dec.6 (Reuters) Fifty years after he began his own journey from Mexico to Formula One, following compatriot Ricardo Rodriguez to Europe in 1962, Jo Ramirez is thrilled to think his country could again have a grand prix winner.

L-R: McLaren team mates Ayrton Senna (BRA) and Alain Prost (FRA). McLaren team co-ordinator Jo Ramirez (MEX) is pictured on the right. Formula One World Championship, 1988.The 71-year-old mechanic-turned-team manager has more than a passing interest in Sergio Perez’s move from Sauber to McLaren as replacement for 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton.

Once the warm and friendly face of a team whose image was distinctly grey, the retired Ramirez knows McLaren inside out and was the man who first introduced a callow Perez to his future employers.

“When he first started doing GP2 [in 2009] I said: ‘I have to introduce you to the right people at McLaren, so they just know your face and name. It’s always a good thing to do’,” he told Reuters in an interview.

“We were lucky because we went to the motorhome…and when we got in there [chief executive] Ron Dennis, [shareholder] Mansour Ojjeh and [team principal] Martin Whitmarsh were all there. So he met everybody at once.”

Ramirez, who worked with Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi before joining McLaren in 1983 for an 18-year stint that spanned the sensational Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost years as well as titles with Mika Hakkinen, did not stop there.

L-R: Mika Hakkinen(FIN) and Jo Ramirez (MEX) Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal 16 June 1996The man who has worked for, or been friends with, every Mexican driver to have competed in Formula One in the past half-century offered Perez advice on the way up through the junior series and played a role behind the scenes once the driver was at mid-table Sauber.

When he got wind that Hamilton was unsettled, and mulling a move to Mercedes, the Mexican set to work.

“This year, when I heard that Lewis was not very happy at McLaren and the relations between Lewis and Ron Dennis were a bit fragile and that Martin actually had a good eye for Sergio, then I sort of started to move the ball around and fusillade Martin with emails and that,” he smiled.

Whitmarsh recalled the situation slightly differently, telling Reuters that he first met Perez one-to-one at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, months before Hamilton’s departure was finally settled.

“Jo introduced me to [Perez’s manager] Adrian Fernandez, I do remember that, last year,” he said. “If he did introduce me to Sergio [before], sadly I can’t remember it.”

(L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren with Jo Ramirez (MEX). Formula One Testing, Day 4, Jerez, Spain,  Sunday 13 February 2011.His new driver would be happy to jog his memory: “I’ve known Jo since a very long time ago,” he told Reuters. “He helped me at the beginning of my career and always gives me good advice.

“He was an important guy to make the approach; actually he introduced me to Martin so he’s very happy to be part of this.”

The last Mexican to win a grand prix was Ricardo’s brother Pedro Rodriguez for BRM at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium in 1970, the year before his death at Germany’s Norisring circuit.

Ricardo, who died aged 20 in practice for the non-championship Mexican Grand Prix of 1962 after five races with Ferrari, was a boyhood friend of Ramirez and one of the lost talents of Formula One.

Where ‘Checo’ Perez will ultimately rank remains to be seen.

“He’s certainly the best we have now, not the best we’ve ever had…I think the Rodriguez brothers were very special,” said Ramirez, speaking before a dinner organised by Motor Sport magazine for the Grand Prix Mechanics Charitable Trust, of which he is a trustee.

Jo Ramirez (MEX). Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday 21 April 2012.“Ricardo was a complete phenomenon. He would have been one of the greatest but unfortunately he didn’t live long enough.”

Already the first Mexican since Hector Rebaque in 1981 to score points, Perez had three podium finishes with Sauber this season including second places in Malaysia and Italy that threw him into the spotlight.

Ramirez said the Guadalajara-born youngster, who has been replaced at Sauber by 21-year-old compatriot Esteban Gutierrez, was far from the finished article however.

“I think Sergio has done all the steps in the correct way, been very focused and he’s been good and very tough,” he said. “But in the last two years he has developed himself much more as a driver than as a person.

“He’s still a child, very young. As a driver he’s full of confidence, when he talks with his engineers he really very much knows what he wants to do on the car and he doesn’t let himself be convinced otherwise.

L-R: Jo Ramirez (MEX) with Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari Manager of F1 Operations. Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday 6 July 2008.“Where he has to learn a lot, especially going to a team like McLaren…he doesn’t much like the press, he doesn’t talk too much to the press. The minute he sees a press guy, he runs…so that he’s got to learn. In a team like McLaren he has to be good to the press,” smiled Ramirez.

Flying visits to Mexico will also have to be curbed.

In his entertaining 2005 book, ‘Memoirs of a Racing Man’, Ramirez recalled how Rebaque would rush home to Mexico between races with the result that he frequently suffered from jet lag at grands prix.

Ramirez said Perez, who began racing in Europe at an early age, could not afford any such distractions.

“You saw how Michael Schumacher applied himself, like Ayrton Senna did; like Fernando Alonso. They are there 10/10ths all the time. If you don’t do it, the next guy is going to do it. To be successful, you’ve got to do it,” he said.

Subbed by AJN.

  • Lauda Fan

    Perez? (snore)

  • Mark

    Hater? (puke)

  • laren

    McLaren in my opinion made the best choice of picking Perez, they needed someone young with the drive to win and to grow with McLaren

  • Alana Mdz

    Checo is going to a great driver for mclaren. the kid’s only 22 and has driven so well in a? midfield sauber.

  • Butterfly

    @Alana Mdz:

    That midfield Sauber was a race-winning car.

  • Alonso_is_slow

    Sauber never was a winning car. Perez was simply beating Alonso in driver capability several times despite being younger and cheaper in a slower car.

    Alonso could be replaced with him.

  • Butterfly

    Not only was the Sauber a race-winning car, but Red Bull copied it – Adrian Newey said the exhaust config was the best on the grid.

    Small sidepods, low drag, excellent top speed, and easy on its tires. It was some piece of kit.

    Sauber put the mexican on a contrary strategy because Kobayashi wiped the floor with him in qualy so they had to do something about it.

    As for the mexican replacing anybody, well, the guy’s as slow as a snail. Bianchi is .5 sec faster over a lap at Fiorano, and that’s a small track.

    Good job, McLaren, you just bought yourselves a mascott.

  • JodyRenza

    Perez will be better than most people give him credit..

  • Alana Mdz

    This is a brilliant move for McLaren. To have such a body blow in Lewis leaving and swiftly responding by signing an immensely talented, young driver who has already proved that he is ready to challenge at the highest level is a great thing. Just hope they will have the right car to suit both drivers next year.

    @alonso_is_slow
    completely agree

    @butterfly
    hahahaha yeah yeah whatever you say hahaha you are a pokemon hahahaha
    laughing out loud

  • Butterfly

    I just don’t see McLaren in a good position next year.

    Jenson likes to talk a lot and do nothing, while the mexican is big on dreams but slow on track. Both drivers are rubbish in qualy, McLaren many not get any poles next year unless they have a fantastic car.

    So, here’s hoping the MP4-28 is fast. Otherwise, it will get messy…

  • McHare

    When you consider that Kobi was hot property a couple of years ago and now look at him. Ground into the dust by Perez. Make no mistake, the Sauber was flattered by the smooth driving style of one Sergio Perez. I believe he will be the surprise gift to F1 next year.

  • Tony

    Keeping it positive, SP’s driving style should compliment Buttons much better than Hamiltons. This, all being well, could help develop the car in a unified and consistent direction through the year. Go McLaren!

  • Hawk

    “Keeping it positive, SP’s driving style should compliment Buttons much better than Hamiltons.”

    good you said “keeping it positive” because it is just wishful thinking. well they will compliment each others driving styles in the middle of the pack. Only Lewis’ style was a challenge for the RBs and from RB and Ferrari’s recent comments they are relieved they will not be seeing the yellow helmet for a long time. the game is as much psychological; if I were Alonso/Vettel I would be much calmer if I have the likes of Webber, JB (if he makes it), Pastor, Perez,.. around me at the start.

    @McHare
    “smooth driving style” does such thing exist anymore? 2012 rendered it extinct. It was your song of 2011.

  • Kimi4WDC

    Many people quite deluded about “smooth driving” style. Look at he strategies, laps done on certain tyres and you will find out that there is zero difference.

    Who ever can adapt best will be fastest, and they are. Having a certain type of style will only make you slower. It’s like shifting gear at certain RPMs and not short shift when there is a benefit to do so.

    As Peter Windsor pointed out, Alonso, Vettel, Raikkonen and Hamilton were the only ones who were actually shifting down the gears differently in various corners to anyone else while breaking down. Those guys will adapt to whatever is required at that point of time.

    Got to wait to see, how fast that McLaren will be in 2013 compare to others.

  • hillside

    Perez in a good day, he’ll be like JPM… a win here, a pole there and crash a lot. while in a bad day, he’ll be like Heikki. get the loundry, make the coffee and wash the car.

  • Butterfly

    @hillside:

    That’s probably the most accurate description of Perez to date.