Perez: To be part of the team Ayrton made history with is very special

 

Sergio Perez at Woking

Sergio Perez at Woking

Despite turning up at the factory front door in a bright orange McLaren sportscar, and receiving a standing ovation from the team’s 500-strong staff, Sergio Perez struggled to comprehend just how much his lifestyle had changed.

Sergio Perez and Martin Whitmarsh“I think it didn’t hit me yet,” the 22-year-old Mexican grinned in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday after his first day at work with the perennial Formula One title contenders.

“It takes some time to realise that you are driving for the best team in the world, that you are part of the best team,” said the man recruited as Lewis Hamilton’s replacement and obviously enjoying some of the perks of the job.

“This is very easy to get used to,” laughed ‘Checo’ of the £ 195 000  ($ 312 000) McLaren MP4-12C Spider that he used to make his entry. “I think the real changes are coming in terms of pressure, results, work.”

Perez is right on that. For the past two years he has been with Sauber, a tidy mid-table Swiss team who make the most of their resources without generating too much excitement.

McLaren are in another dimension, even if Perez sometimes beat both their drivers last season on his way to three podium finishes.

The first Mexican in more than 40 years with a chance of winning a grand prix, Perez knows his nation expects as much – if not more, than McLaren.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren sat on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday 9 September 2012.Hamilton’s are huge shoes to fill but the man Perez will be measured against above all is team mate Jenson Button, the silky smooth and experienced 2009 world champion who won the first and last races of 2012.

McLaren was also at one time the team of the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna, a triple champion revered around the world, and greats like Frenchman Alain Prost and Britain’s James Hunt.

“To be part of the team Ayrton [made] history with is very special. I hope one day my name can be next to those champions,” said the man who was born in 1990, the year of Senna’s second title with McLaren.

Without a point in his last six races and yet to celebrate a victory, Perez negotiated the immediate pitfalls faced by any newcomer when being grilled by the media, emphasising his respect for Button and how much he hoped to learn from him.

At the same time – speaking confidently but without arrogance – he made it clear that he would be disappointed not to beat the Briton and hoped to be fighting for wins from the start and be in the running for the title.

“The target is not [just] to score points or podiums, the target is to win, to fight for wins and to win the championship because when you come to McLaren you have got the opportunity to do it,” said the Mexican.

Sergio Perez at WokingButton is the familiar face at Woking but Perez said he too had felt the warmth from the moment he walked through the glass doors of the futuristic factory as an official team driver.

“It has been incredible to finally wear the kit, to finally be with the team. Today I met the whole team, completely, everybody, so it was a very special day. I think the season has started for us,” said the Mexican, who had also visited the facility last year while still under contract to Sauber.

“It makes me feel very proud to be part of such a great family, everybody is so warm – such a close family. And everybody enjoys, loves working for McLaren.

“It’s unbelievable to realise that all these people are working for you, for the same target, to give you the very best opportunity to win because everybody at the factory is hungry for winning. This is something you feel as soon as you walk in to the factory.

“I’m really motivated. I am so much looking forward and this is a great opportunity for me to show what I can do in a top team.”

Sergio Perez at WokingButton is a Monaco resident but Perez said that he intends to continue living in Switzerland, making visits to the factory when needed but cutting down on trips home to Mexico to spare himself jetlag.

“I won’t move to the UK,” he said. “But I will be here very often with the team, close to the team.

“My main responsibility and my main goal is to win races, to be 100 percent fit…so it’s extremely important to reduce the travelling as much as possible and be focused on the team.”

Perez said he had not spoken to Button since last year but expected to get on well with him.

“I think he’s quite a nice guy, a very open guy as well, like me. He’s always with his family around, a bit like me as well, so I expect to have a good relationship with him although you never know. But I see Jenson as a very open guy.”

Hamilton had a special relationship with Ron Dennis, the former team principal who served as mentor throughout his early career and is now McLaren chairman.

If anyone is going to be a father figure to Perez at McLaren, it will be Dennis’s successor Martin Whitmarsh who welcomed him with a handshake and warm words on Wednesday.

“Maybe. He is old enough to be,” smiled Perez at the father figure analogy. “I see him as a good friend, I have a lot of trust in him.” (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.

  • The Fuzz

    Fine set of teeth. Hope he lives up to the hype. Has the confidence of Senna if nothing else. I’m sure we’ll know who’s the boss at McLaren by the end of testing. Fastest laps always belong to the fastest drivers. Can’t wait

  • Butterfly

    This has got to be one of the worst driver pairings in McLaren’s history.

  • McHare

    I guess when common wisdom suggests there are only really 2 no1 drivers out there with Lewis and Seb… What you gonna do!

  • Mark

    that butterfly guy hates everything that isnt called alonso. wow… someone needs to get a life.

  • The Fuzz

    He’s so easy to wind up though Mark…. Consider it a sport in itself!

  • Butterfly

    Mark:

    I don’t hate either of the McLaren drivers, mate, I’m just stating the obvious. Jenson has a habbit of talking too much and not delivering enough, while the Mexican is slow and impatient.

    What the f*uck kind of team is that?

  • The Fuzz

    Wheras Alonso is just perfect. Even if he can’t out qualify his slow slow team mate when the pressures on!!

  • Butterfly

    @The Fuzz:

    Formula 1 is more technical than you can understand, but FYI the upgrades brought later in the season gave Alonso & his engineer problems in getting the balance right, whereas Massa & Smedley did a better job.

    So, it was down to car setup and balance rather than skill. Felipe is fast, no doubt, but there are few who can match Alonso. Raikkonen and Hamilton may be the only ones, in my opinion.

  • The Fuzz

    Butterfly – even after the in your face warning, you walked straight into that one. The hole opened up and you jumped straight in. Are you Alonso’s sister?

  • McHare

    I’ll take credit for that if you don’t mind mr Fuzz.

  • Butterfly

    @The Fuzz:

    I’m not his sister, no.

  • Kimi4WDC

    I have to agree. I’m puzzled by McLaren motivation to field such line up.

    They are good drivers, but considering McLaren chances to win a Championship are pretty high and their last triumph is further and further away. I would expect McLaren being much more clinical and their drivers, at least one of them.