Sergio Perez is looking forward to this year, his eleventh in the top flight, only his second as a Red Bull driver but has made it crystal clear he wants to be Formula 1 World Champion.
Red Bull saved Perez’s career, the Mexican veteran was replaced at Racing Point (which morphed into Aston Martin) for the 2021 season by Sebastian Vettel who slotted in alongside Lance Stroll to lead the programme. Checo was redundant.
Fortunately, at the time the energy drinks outfit simply had no driver to team up with Max Verstappen, who had made the likes of Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon look ordinary by the Dutch ace. Thus, with Perez available they opted for his experience and well known-consistency.
Despite early teething problems with the new team, not unlike those suffered by other drivers that changed teams for last season, he hit the sweet spot with a famous albeit fortuitous victory in Baku in his sixth race with the team. Box ticked!
By the end of the season, he was fourth in the Championship but did not bring enough to the table for Red Bull to win the F1 constructors’ championship, which rivals Mercedes won for a record eighth consecutive time.
Nevertheless, Perez had by far delivered more solid performances than his predecessors, doing enough to get a contract extension from Red Bull, and now after the first get-to-know-you season with them, 31-year-old Checo is now thinking bigger than just being a wingman to Max.
I am here because I fully believe I can be a F1 World Champion
Reflecting on last year, during an interview on TAG-Heuer’s The Edge podcast, Perez said: “I really enjoy working with the team, to be honest, with a group of people, with engineers, with Red Bull. I really feel great to be part of it, working great with Max with the race engineers, with all the team in general.
“To me at this stage in my career the most important is I enjoy it, the time I don’t enjoy it will be the time I have to go home because I don’t need any more to be here. I am here because I fully believe I can be a world champion.”
Asked how different it is driving for a top team as opposed to Force India/ Racing Point, Perez explained: “First of all, the brand Red Bull, you have a lot of commitments, we have a lot of partners.
“But also on the track-side it’s different, you fight for the world championship, if not, you’re trying to. So off track and on track, it’s a lot of work, a lot of demand, you’re in the spotlight all the time. So that makes it very, very intense.
“Compared to a team that is not fighting for the F1 world championship or, is not as big a brand as Red Bull makes it far more challenging,” added Perez.
The ‘curve-ball’ question was what Checo would have chosen as a career if becoming a racing driver had not happened for him, he replied: “Lawyer or a banker, you know, I think it shares with the adrenaline that we live every day, into into into our lives.
“I quite like adrenaline and I mean, those jobs really give you that adrenaline and certainly. Maybe something related to sport, I’ll say as well, you know, probably a lawyer that helps the sportsmen getting down their contracts, kind of a manager.”
I have to say racing is a tough, tough career
Finally, the 31-year-old spoke about the reality of being a father racing in F1 and what if his kids want to race – Pérez is married to Carola Martínez, and they have two children – he said: “I mean, it’s a tough, tough career. I have to say, I guess for every career, to make it to the very top, to get into the highest level of the sport is very tough.
“It takes a lot from you but I think if my kids are willing to do it, and they’re, they’re willing to give it all and to be successful to be very professional, at a very young age, I’m more than happy to support them. I had all the support from my, from my parents.
“I’ll do the same for my kids, it doesn’t matter for me if they want to be a Formula 1 driver or, or if they want to be a lawyer, I will support them in whatever they want to do, but I will push them to be the best do not to, to make sure they give their best.
“If they don’t have the talent to be the best, at least they have to make sure that they give it all. And that, for me is the most important, sometimes you don’t have the talent to make it, and it can get very frustrating. But for me, the most important is I give them all the support in whatever they want to do.
“I want to teach my kids to give it all in whatever they do, you know, to make sure they’re passionate about what they’re, they want to do,” added Perez who will line up on the F1 grid for the 214th time when he starts the Bahrain Grand Prix season opener on 20 March.
However, the pressure will again be intense on Perez to keep improving and running closer to Verstappen, especially in qualifying, with the knowledge that waiting in the wings are still the likes of Gasly and even Albon (who returns to F1 with Williams) with Yuki Tsunoda also in the queue.
Switching up the Sprint Race format for 2022… 😉 Who ya got over 100m? 🏃 pic.twitter.com/PMkIA72lLc
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) January 20, 2022