Martin Whitmarsh vows Sergio Perez will have equal status with Jenson Button
McLaren Team Principal says there is no number two at McLaren
By William Esler. Last Updated: 09/01/13 3:24pm
Whitmarsh: Perez can be World Champ
Martin Whitmarsh has promised Sergio Perez equal status alongside Jenson Button for the 2013 season, with the McLaren boss insisting that their intra-team rivalry will be a help rather than a hindrance.
The Mexican, who will replace Lewis Hamilton at the Woking-based team, was officially unveiled as a McLaren driver on Wednesday and immediately made a confident statement of intent, insisting that he could be crowned World Champion in 2013.
Although many pundits have predicted Jenson Button will be the team's lead driver in 2013, with Perez limited to a support role, Whitmarsh says both drivers will be given equal opportunity to beat each other in the year to come.
"People like to have that debate," the McLaren Team Principal told Sky Sports News.
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"The fact is Jenson has got the advantage in terms of knowing the team, he has the experience and he is a World Champion. Jenson will be very generous with his time and his share his opinions, but when he pulls out of the garage, Jenson will want to beat Sergio and Sergio will want to beat Jenson.
"That is the mentality in our team. They will have equal treatment. I think that competition in the team is good."
Despite Perez only being 22 years of age, Whitmarsh is sure McLaren is the right place for the Mexican, having seen the team mould young drivers into World Champions in the past.
"I am happy at this stage and I am excited as we are about to run the cars. He is very young, very talented and that is exciting," added Whitmarsh.
"We have had the good fortune to bring young drivers through like Lewis Hamilton and Mika Hakkinen and turn them into World Champions. We don't know if that is going to happen, there is a lot of pressure on Sergio to deliver in this team, but he has impressed me so far."
Whitmarsh also reiterated that there was no Lewis Hamilton 'hangover' at the team, but did leave the door open for the 2008 World Champion's return.
"We are focussed on 2013 with two great drivers. Lewis was a great driver, but no-one can predict the future but at the moment. 2013 is the start of an exciting season with these two drivers."
Perez ready for challenge
The bookmakers make Perez favourite to outscore Hamilton in 2013, but a cautious Whitmarsh added it is not a bet he would be making just yet.
"Mercedes are a big team, they are a good team. If Sergio has better odds than Lewis, I'm not sure I would rush down the bookies myself. We can't predict what other teams are going to do, we can only do the best job that we can and deliver a competitive car.
"We had the quickest car at the end of last year and that adds to the expectation on any McLaren driver. And I think Sergio knows that and he wants to come here and win."