With the awesome Drive to Survive returning to Netflix on February 23, today we’re celebrating with magical Motorsport moments. Three in fact – the best come back from behind story, one that will make you cry in joy and a moment in JDM history that proves if you’re the best of what you do, you too can drive a brand new super car just in a pair of socks and casual loafers..
Yes YouTube vids are provided where possible because it’s one thing to read my hype about them but another to actually watch the incredible story unfold..
Motorsport Moment 1: Sergio Perez decides he doesn’t want to be in last place anymore and blitzes his way to first place instead
Ahh bless the creators of Netflix’s Drive to Survive (always full of Motorsport moments), because without out I wouldn’t have discovered my favourite F1 driver of all time
Yuki Senoda Sergio Perez. Yes while it starts off with plenty of love for Australia’s own Daniel Ricardo, soon enough I found myself cheering on Checo and watching him go from ‘He’s okay’ to ‘Hello, this is Christian Horner from Red Bull Racing, we have a spot here we think would be a perfect fit for you..’
And that particular moment that all nailed that contract offer, scored this legend his very first GP win ever and blew my limited F1 exposed mind with his ability came about in the same race, Sakhir Dec 2020.
Yes I feel I really need to highlight the icing on the cake for this story, namely that Sergio Perez had never won a GP up until this point which makes this run even more exhilarating, especially since he was closing on 200 F1 races by then without a gold cup (he’d made the podium 9 times though, so he’d seen what one had looked like!)
Still driving for Racing Point at the time, it’s far to say that things didn’t start off well for Perez who, while starting towards the front of the grid only got through a handful of corners on turn one before Charles Leclerc clipped him from the back causing him to spin off track. Max Verstappen was also caught in that mess and a wheel that ended up in an angle far from where it needs to be for effective racing ruled out both his and Leclerc’s efforts for the night.
‘I couldn’t do anything there. F***s sake.’-Verstappen explaining in eloquent terms his version of the crash
So by the time Perez got his (slightly shaky) car back on track to make a beeline to the pits, he was dead last in 18th place which even if you’re not F1 mad, you know is not the ideal position to launch any form of race comeback let alone try and win the thing.
However 6 laps later, Sergio caught up with and passed Kimi Raikkonen in 17th place which was obviously enough for Checo to decide that there was still enough fight in the recently pitted machine to do something. So he passed Fittipaldi who probably saw him pass and thought ‘Wait, didn’t my race engineer tell me you spun off track?’. That only made Perez even hungrier to prove himself and so he continued to push as hard as he could and suddenly from 18th he was in 12th. And then a prime 10th position. And then he kept climbing because hey, what did he have to lose?
When he crawled back to 3rd place there was a slight setback – he could feel his front left tire giving up the ghost and requested to box (pit early) before he was due before it shredded itself into rubber oblivion. Just coming to a stop in pit lane dropped him back down to 9th. But he’d worked his way up the ranks so far, surely he could do it again? And he did, at one point asking the slightly pointless question to his race engineer Tim Wright:
‘How’s my pace?’
‘Seriously strong!’ Came Tim’s astonished reply. But pretty much everyone both track side and watching on could see that with their eyes closed. At one stage he caught up with and passed his team mate in Lance Stroll, asking Tim to get Lance to move out of the way because he had a chance and the team really needed the points.
Now while you’d be thinking so far that fate was solely concentrated on Sergio’s mad attempts to defy all odds, you’d be mistaken. While Sergio was working on his mud hole stomping, George Russel was trying to put his best foot forward at the same time. Working for Williams, he’d been called up to fill the boots of Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and for a good chunk of the race that’s exactly what he did – paint the solid picture of his talent by getting in front of his temporary Merc team mate Bottas and staying there for most of the night.
And had Lady Luck not had one too many Heinekens in the sponsors tent and not rained on his night then there was every chance that his debut with Mercedes would overshadow Perez’s. Because he out paced and held everyone else back, could he had done with the same with Checo?
But a miscommunication from pit lane saw both Mercedes drivers pit at the same time. And if you know your laws of physics (or something), you’ll recall the that two solid states of matter can’t exist in the same space at the same time. Ergo one in the pit area at a time, the other has to wait right behind.
Russell came through first but on his way out someone realised they’d just given him a mixed set of tire compounds which is illegal and so he’d have to swing back the next lap to get it fixed. Which he did…and then a puncture eventually ruined that set so he had to pit again, sending his winning chances down to an eventual 9th.
(What didn’t help the feeling when it was over was the fact that at one stage George was fastest than Perez in lap time and was starting to bear down on him to try and take back the lead which is always thrilling. But you’re not going to shorten up a 2 second gap with a puncture are you? He had to box again and there went his victory.)
Meanwhile the impatient Bottas waiting behind his temporary team mate got even more so when the air powered tire changer decided it didn’t want to play anymore and gave up the ghost right then and there. After slapping it around for a bit they eventually coaxed some form of life back into it and got the tire on but not before a decent chunk of the racing pack sailed on by.
So suddenly, the biggest threat team to Checo domination found themselves lagging and Sergio was now in front, having used a combination of skill and tremendous luck to claw his way back to the top. All he had to do was hold on for 17 more laps. With 9 to go that’s when Russell dropped back due to his tire issues and with Bottas stuck in 8th, it dropped the threat level way down. And so he kept on go, first and foremost right to the very end where he suddenly found himself a) the winner b) the holder of the record of ‘longest f1 career without a first place victory’ c) speechless and d) Suddenly on Red Bull’s radar, not necessarily in that order.
He’d won his first ever GP from the very last place and put on an absolute masterclass. It still gives me chills watching the replays of his Herculean effort today. (I’d embed the YouTube vid about this from Formula One but they’ve banned it from playing outside of the platform so you’ll have to go here to see it. It’s well and truly worth the watch though.)
Well deserved Sergio, well deserved.
Motorsport Moment 1: Deal Earnhardt Jnr honours his dad at the 2001 Pepsi 400
I’ll admit that I’m more Formula One than Nascar. And more drift racing that Nascar. And more rally racing than Nascar. Only, I’ll admit that I’m not into Nascar at all and my closest experience too it would be the occasional foray to a Speedway night which anyone who does enjoy Nascar will quickly point out can’t really be compared. At all.
But my lack of passion for this Motorsport aside, I will admit that I find the last few laps of this particular race equally enthralling and emotional. And mother of god do I still get caught up in the excitement (just like the ravenous crowd does) of Dale Jr driving his absolute heart out to put his mark on the race.
To paint the picture of the lead up to this one, this is the first race at Daytona since Dale Earnhardt Sr was killed on the last lap at the Daytona 500. It had happened earlier on in the same year two so you could only imagine the heavy heart Jr must have been carrying about his father when he strapped himself in for this one.
But his dad was a racer, he’s a racer and I’m sure some American commentator said it at some stage ‘So dang namit, he’s gone race!’ (or words to that effect.)
You could honour the man by continuing to race, Jr decides to go one better.
And unlike Perez’s charge from the rear of the pack to grab victory over the length of the event, this one swells the heart muscles to double their normal size in the last handful of laps. (Which if you’re like me and not keen on watching an entire Nascar go around, makes things so much easier to appreciate.)
Here we find Jnr in 6th place. And then 4th. And then he creeps past Mayfield for 3rd place. When he hits second, the crowd starts going bananas and electricity hits the air (not literally but you get the picture). And while he’s doing this, his team mate Michael Waltrip follows right behind him. Seconds later Dale Jnr is sitting up front and a moment later Waltrip’s right behind him, backing him up and attempting to hold the rest of the team back to allow Jr to take it out (yes like Galdalf if you want to look at it that was with every other car now a firey Balrog). As one of the very excited commentators puts it:
‘That’s who Dale needs to see in his rear view mirror right now, that’s the best thing he can see.’-A wise commentator.
Having your team mate right behind you in a ‘Go, I’ll push back on this army here, you got this’ would have been completely heartening and the crowd just about goes into rapture as Jnr holds on to finish the last lap, Waltrip provides the shield, Dale does it for his dad and everyone who watches this moment on YouTube tries to hold back tears of joy (yes me too, I welled up the first time I watched this) at one of the most emotional moments in Motorsport, ever. He won for the memory of his dad, awesome.
And while the footage in this clip isn’t that great, the emotion is right there and I dare you not to get swept away in this victory. While I might not ever be a fan of Nascar, I’ll always been a fan of these final minutes in this race..
And Motorsport Moment 3: Senna test drives a Honda NSX-R…in dress shoes.
Oh be still my beating Gran Turismo heart. Here you have the original 90’s Honda super car driven by one of the greatest racing drivers of all time, sorely missed to this day, dressed like he was about to have lunch somewhere on the French riviera.
Yes no race suit, no anti fire head wrap, no bracing for his neck, no cool suit, no gloves, no boots. Just what you see him wearing above. Oh and a pair of loafers and socks whiter than white as the his fancy footwork takes us through a quick lesson in heel and toe shifting.
At one stage the dial just runs out of numbers and the needle wonders when it can take a quick breath, all while Senna looks like he’s having a leisure Sunday drive out in a new toy. Which is pretty much the case on both parts here, Senna was having a leisurely drive at the Suzuka track (testing his McLaren) while the NSX team were giving their prototype a run through at the same location. And in the ultimate case of ‘Mr Senna, because you’re a big part of the McLaren-Honda team, while you’re here… if you wouldn’t mind?’
So he did. In his socks and loafers.
‘It feels a little fragile.’–Senna’s findings on the NSX prototype, 1989
And so the team took that advice and stiffened the chassis by 50%, along with a raft of other improvements one of the coolest cats in Formula One could think of. Which both parties appreciated because who wouldn’t want to own an NSX after that? Not Senna, he was the proud owner of three of them in his time.
Knowing him, he probably even drove one barefoot back in the day. We wrap up this Motorsport moment with this one, enjoy!