Daily Sports Smile: Sergio Pérez becomes winningest Mexican driver in Formula 1

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico celebrates on the podium after winning the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix, at the Monaco racetrack, in Monaco, Sunday, May 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
Victoria Hernandez
USA TODAY Sports+

What started as a rainy day in Monaco ended with a ray of light for Formula One driver Sergio "Checo" Pérez.

After a lengthy delay and a red-flag stoppage, Pérez won the Monaco Grand Prix and became the winningest Mexican driver in F1 history Sunday.

Monaco marked the Red Bull driver's third F1 victory — overtaking the late Pedro Rodriguez, who had two wins in his storied career. Rodriguez died in 1971 doing what he loved, racing. The circuit in Mexico is named after him and his brother, Ricardo.

Pérez paid tribute to the Mexican legend during the race weekend by wearing a special helmet that had Pedro's name and accomplishments listed alongside his own.

"Winning Monaco, it’s a dream come true as a driver," Pérez said after the monumental day at F1's crown jewel race. "So, it’s just incredible, such a big day for myself. I was driving with Pedro Rodriguez’s helmet today and I’m sure that up there he will be super proud of what we have achieved in the sport."

It was a drama-filled weekend for F1. Checo ended qualifying prematurely by crashing into a corner, giving Ferrari's Charles Leclerc the pole position and Pérez's Red Bull teammate and current championship leader Max Verstappen a fourth-place start. Pérez started race day from third and competed expertly, passing hometown favorite Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz during a pit stop to finish at the top of the podium.

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Pérez won his first F1 race in 2020 at the Sakhir Grand Prix while a member of Force India. He came from behind to take the crown. That season, he was on the verge of losing his F1 seat, but Red Bull picked him up and he won the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In August, he became the first Mexican driver to lead the Mexico Grand Prix and get a podium with his third-place finish.

As the Mexican national anthem played and the rain cleared in Monaco, Pérez teared up as he soaked in the glory. He finished the day by flipping gleefully into the Red Bull swimming pool — the Mexican flag draped proudly around his shoulders.