MONZA, Italy, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Mexican Sergio Perez
shrugged off pre-race sickness to finish a stunning second for
Sauber in the Italian Grand Prix and give his Formula One career
prospects extra lustre at a key point in the season.
Perez is already part of Ferrari's young driver academy and
his third podium of the season, and second runner-up finish,
only increased speculation that he could replace Brazilian
Felipe Massa at the Italian team.
Sauber Formula One Team chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn
smiled when asked whether her Swiss-based team could hang on to
Perez, who brings considerable Mexican sponsorship with him.
Sauber are highly-respected in the sport, but far from the
glamorous end occupied by Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, even if
they are now just 26 points behind fifth placed Mercedes in the
"We announced for one season and we will in due course
announce for the next season, but I am still relaxed as I was
months ago," Kaltenborn told Reuters.
Massa, who has not stood on a grand prix podium since 2010,
finished fourth on Sunday after letting team mate and
championship leader Fernando Alonso go past.
"I don't think so," he said when asked if Sunday's race
could be seen as a battle for his seat between him and Perez.
Sunday's success made up for the disappointment of Belgium
last weekend, where Sauber qualified both cars in the top four,
with Japan's Kamui Kobayashi on the front row for the first
time, only to see their hopes scuppered at the start.
"We were so confident and happy and then you just see it
fizzle out without you having really done anything wrong," said
"Coming back at this track in this way, and bringing that
performance home and showing it all, is very important for us."
Perez might have won in Malaysia, when he chased down
Alonso, but made a mistake just when it looked like he was sure
to pass and had to settle for second. He was third in Canada.
Some cynics suggested that a Ferrari-powered Sauber might be
under some pressure not to pass the factory Ferrari, but Perez
exploded that myth on Sunday when he powered past Alonso in
front of the massed ranks of Ferrari faithful to go second.
The next target for the Mexican, who said he had been unwell
before qualifying at Monza, is to win a race for the first time.
"I hope sooner rather than later," Perez declared. "I want
to win. I already have a second and a third, as you say. I want
my first victory to come and I hope it can come before the end
of the season."
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, winner at Monza on Sunday, felt
that was likely.
"Well done to Sergio, it won't be too long before we see him
up front," he told reporters separately. "I don't mind if he's
up front as long as he's taking points away from the guys in red
(Editing by Matt Barker)