The last time Sergio Perez stood on the podium was at the 2012 Italian Grand Prix, since then his career took a nose-dive and included a brief tenure at McLaren last year from which he was unfairly ousted, but on a bright night in Bahrain the Mexican reversed his fortunes, with an impressive drive, and gave Force India their first podium since the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix. He spoke afterwards;
What’s it like being back on the podium again? You’re enjoying this aren’t you?
Sergio Perez: Yeah, I mean, it’s been a while since my last podium. This podium is very special for me guys, I told you already on the radio. This is only my third race for the team and it was a really, really good one. The strategy was really close for us. It was looking a lot easier until the safety car came because when the safety car came in we were going on two stops so the people behind, the Red Bulls, they were on there stops but we managed to keep it just to the end; one more lap I couldn’t manage to keep him back.
It’s been quite a tough period for you since the last time you were at the podium towards the end of 2012. What does this mean to you today?
SP: It means a lot. It’s a very special podium for myself. As you say, I had a really tough time, my time in McLaren where I was basically quite far… I never have a chance to fight for a podium in all my year. Really, coming into Force India and being able to, only in my third race, to be able to qualify fourth and then straight away being able to fight for the podium was a great feeling. An amazing podium. The Safety Car makes things really hard for me. It was looking quite comfortable before the Safety Car came in and once it came it was really difficult also to switch the Prime tyre on. It was extremely hard as we had a Safety Car for a long period. So I arrive into Turn One after the restart with my team-mate… just couldn’t stop the car, locked the front wheels. Tried my best to keep the position and we managed and then we had the Red Bull coming really quick at the end. Fortunately we managed to keep the podium.
Last year was maybe your more difficult year in Formula One with McLaren. This year you have alongside you a big name like Nico Hulkenberg. Could you describe how important it is for you to be in front and taking the podium you never got at McLaren?
SP: It was very important. Obviously, when I joined McLaren, I joined a really fast team, the fastest team there of all my options back then, so when the McLaren option came to me, I didn’t think twice. So I went into McLaren and I found out that we had a really tough time, a very difficult time and basically I had to…I frustrated myself very much because you come as a young driver, hoping to fight for the title, to win races and when you join a big team it’s the first thing that you think of and it was not that way so I had a really tough time, more than people think, because of the fact that I had a competitive car that was able to fight for a podium. So being able to do it is a great feeling. Obviously the race, the way it paid… Yesterday qualifying was good but we were at a big disadvantage with the people behind, for example Nico Hulkenberg, my teammate, he had newer tyres than I did and at the end of the day, when we were on two stops, it makes a massive difference. He was able to stop a lap earlier and not make a difference… he jumped me, I had to jump him back and overtake the Williams. It was a really enjoyable race, a bit like karting days when you’re fighting in and out. But when you are sliding all the time and you have degradation, it was not so enjoyable towards the end of the race, but still, once you’ve crossed the finish line it was a great feeling for me.