Perez to gatecrash McLaren party
Sergio Perez might find himself sparring at the front with future employers McLaren in this weekend's Japanese GP according to Tom Millard.
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After the sound and fury emanating from Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes last week, it might be wise this weekend to focus on the man who will quietly slip into his existing seat in 2013.
Sergio Perez's move to McLaren proved that Woking did after all have a Plan B, and the Mexican has an immediate opportunity to showcase his skills at the famous Suzuka track in Japan this weekend.
Perez's season has been the epitome of inconsistency but the thread running through his up-and-down form line has been one of getting the very best from his Sauber when track conditions play to the strengths of the package.
The Swiss team's car is in a league of its own when it comes to maximising the stint length of its tyres in race conditions and this has paid dividends when circumstances have allowed.
The grands prix in Malaysia, Canada and Italy each saw Perez as the fastest man on the track as he was able to maintain grip levels as his rivals' rubber deteriorated.
And the same script was written for Spa-Francorchamps but "Checo" and team-mate Kamui Kobayashi, who had qualified fifth and second, were wiped out at the first corner by an airborne Lotus.
While last month's race in Singapore did not play to the strengths of the low-drag characteristics of the Sauber chassis, Suzuka has been pinpointed by the team as another potential giant-killing venue.
The team will bring a new front wing to the race and the circuit's high- and medium-speed corners should suit the C31's aero profile.
"After underperforming in Singapore, in Japan I am expecting our car to again to be as good as it used to be and we should be strong in the high-speed corners," said the Mexican in his press release.
Put simply, Perez could be the star of the show once again in Suzuka and despite William Hill chopping their 50/1 earlier this week, the 40/1 offered by Coral is still a sound bet.
We're mainly interested in the place terms for this bet so one-quarter the odds for three places still works out at 10/1 for a podium finish - four points better than the stand-alone podium bet offered by most firms.
For his part Kobayashi might be worth supporting in the qualifying markets.
The Japanese has struggled to extract the maximum from the car over a race distance but he's had the edge over his more celebrated team-mate in most qualifying sessions this season, out-performing Perez 8-6, including that front-row start in Belgium and a third place in China.
He'll have the support of tens of thousands of his countrymen and it's not inconceivable that if the car is as strong as we believe, he might raise his game once again on Saturday.
He saved his best qualifying effort of the season for his home race last year so it might be worth backing him for another top-two result at 22/1 with Sky Bet.
Also take Williams enigma Pastor Maldonado in that same market at 11/1.
Maldonado has still not scored a point since his famous victory in Barcelona in May but over one lap he continues to excel.
The Venezuelan's front-row effort in Singapore backed up other fine qualifying results in Belgium, Germany, Britain, Europe and Spain.
Like the Sauber, Maldonado's Williams should go well on this circuit and a double-figure price on another top-two Q3 time appeals more than the one-fifth place terms offered in the pole position market.
For the race itself we were primed to tip McLaren's Jenson Button each way at 11/2 until news filtered through of his five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
It seems, though, that some layers have overreacted to the news of his demotion, Betfred having pushed the Englishman out to 10/1.
That looks decent value but with absconding team-mate Hamilton likely to start well ahead of his colleague in the same machinery, sportingbet's 9/4 on a podium finish looks more appealing.
This is one circuit at which we'd back Button in a straight fight with his fellow world champion but in a dominant car there's room for both of them on the rostrum.
Stick with the 9/4 for a top-three finish at a grand prix which JB regards as a second home race.