Sergio Perez Q&A
McLaren's new signing speaks about his goals for 2013 and why he's not fazed about stepping into Lewis Hamilton's shoes
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 10/01/13 10:33am
On a busy first day of media engagements as a McLaren driver, Perez sat down with invited members of the press - including Sky Sports F1 Online - to look ahead to his big new challenge...
Your first official day as a McLaren driver - how's it been?
Sergio Perez: It's been a great day. A very busy day but an extremely nice day. I have really enjoyed all the work as an official McLaren driver. It's been very special for me.
What kind of things do you want to get addressed and ticked off in the next few weeks so you can hit the ground running come Melbourne?
SP: The most important [thing] for me is to get into the rhythm automatically. In terms of the steering wheel, to get to know all the codes, all the functions, to understand the car in terms of set-ups for me to be able to have a good communication with my engineers.
I think it's very important for me to build my relationship with my engineers, with the team and to get together so when I come into the first test I have as much familiarisation as possible with the whole team and when we get to Melbourne everything comes automatically. So I won't have to think about so many things. The more prepared I can get the better it will do.
What do you think you've got to do to make sure you're the Sergio Perez that finished on the podium in Malaysia, Montreal and Monza and not the Sergio Perez who didn't score points at the end of the season? Do you think there are issues you have got to address?
SP: Definitely. I have to take the positives from 2012 and the negatives as well because you learn more than you do from the positives. It has been a great season last year, a lot of learning and now it's another approach. The way I will approach this year is totally different so we are ready to fight for it.
Have you had much time with Paddy Lowe, Sam Michael and those guys yet?
SP:: Yeah, we had some meetings during last season to start the familiarisation for them and for myself, so we start to understand ourselves. It is getting well and time after time it is getting better so I think we are going in the right direction. We have done good work so far and we have a month to go until the first test.
Have you had a chance to express your preferences from what you want from the car?
SP: Obviously it's difficult for me to give any input but in the simulator while driving the team can already start to know me better in terms of driving style so in that respect it can help a bit. But if I'm honest I haven't had much input on the new car.
When were you in the simulator?
SP: I was there last year. Sauber allowed me to come, I was there for only half a day.
Are you based in the UK now?
SP: I will stay quite a bit in the UK in January but I am not based here.
Have you got a lot of simulator time booked in before the first test?
SP: Basically we start tomorrow with some preparation, some simulator [work], some meetings with the team to start to talk about the car, get to know the new steering wheel and start the preparation for the first test.
In terms of your preparations for this season, is there anything you're planning to do differently, fitness-wise perhaps, with McLaren than was the case at Sauber?
SP: Yes. In terms of the fitness side I think I have done very good preparation in this winter, in this break. I think I have reached a very good level already and I have a month to go until the first test and two months for the first race, so I think I will arrive as fit as I've ever been. So this is very positive as well.
There are only 12 test days this year and obviously you'll have to share half of those with Jenson, do you think that gives you enough time to be at your best from the first race of the season?
SP: I think it will take a bit of time with six days and obviously the races, you've got to learn and get familiarised with the team, but I expect myself to be already competitive in Melbourne.
What do you expect is going to be the biggest challenge in the year ahead for you?
SP: I think the biggest challenge is to win. I think we are all here to win and the challenge we are all facing at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes is to win. This is the target.
Do you think the pressure will be more intense on you at McLaren?
SP: I think definitely when you come into McLaren you are expected to win every race because you are in the best team. So if you're not winning there is something wrong. So in that respect I expect more and more pressure but as a driver what you are looking for is to be in the best team and win races and championships.
Jenson has been in the team a long time so how many races do you think it will take you to get onto his level?
SP: I think it's very difficult for me to tell you in which race I will beat Jenson or which race I will get my first win. I think I will have to get myself as ready as possible for the first race and try to score as many points as possible from the first race onwards.
You must be looking forward to working with Jenson and working alongside a World Champion...
SP: Definitely. I'm so much looking forward to work with a champion, to work with a great guy. The team has so much respect for him and really like him so I'm looking forward to build up my relationship with him and helping the team to have the best car possible. I think we're going to have a good relationship.
I think I've got a lot to learn from him. All of his experience, all of his knowledge. I think it will be very useful.
Did Lewis give you any advice about life at McLaren?
SP: Not really. I get on quite well with Lewis but we did not get into too much detail about our changes.
One of your strengths has been dealing with high degradation tyres and that's really been the foundation of your best results. How do you feel the 2013 tyres are going to play to strengths?
SP: I think the approach this year is different. In Sauber it helped me because the approach was to always try to maximise the race potential, not so much the qualifying. Here the target is to be on pole position and win the race. Normally the fastest strategy is the one where you do the most stops and you are pushing all the time so in that respect I will obviously try to help with my understanding of the tyre, but I think the approach has been different.
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I think we have got to attack a lot more the qualifying and extract the maximum from the race.
Looking at qualifying, when people have compared your skills to Lewis's they've perhaps said that you're not as strong a qualifier as you are racer. Is one-lap performance something you need to improve or is it just about getting into a better car?
SP: No, I think obviously it's something to improve. It's not like when you go into a top car you will be in pole position. It's work to do and I'm not worried about the qualifying pace. I can be up there if I put everything into place. I can maximise the potential of the car so that's the most important thing as a driver.
Facility-wise are you impressed with what you've seen so far and is it a step up from Sauber?
SP: The facilities are amazing here in McLaren. If you compare them to Sauber, who have good facilities in Formula 1, it's another level. But in terms of the people, the way they approach their jobs, is really amazing when you come into McLaren. The emphasis they have is very good and it gives you a big boost when you drive for this team.
From the outside the team may look very cold and difficult but I was surprised when to see how friendly everybody is, how close the people are. Everybody has the same target - to win - and that's what makes them so successful.
Does it change much for you that you're replacing someone like Lewis than if you were taking the seat of a driver who had never done anything in Formula 1?
SP: I don't think it changes anything because if you are replacing somebody at McLaren it has to be a top driver. Even if Lewis was not there I was going to come into this place to replace a very good driver. So I think this is quite normal and my approach has to be to make my own career and my own history at McLaren.
How are things back home? Have you noticed your profile has risen since you've joined McLaren?
SP: Everybody who knows Formula 1 knows McLaren and knows that it is the greatest team in Formula 1. So it has risen quite a bit since I signed for McLaren.
Any thoughts on your countryman Esteban [Gutierrez, Perez's replacement at Sauber] and his opportunity this year?
SP: I think he has a great opportunity. Sauber is a great team to show your potential and I think he will do quite well.
At what point did you feel you were ready to step up to a big team like McLaren?
SP: I really felt ready in my first year. As a driver you are hungry to go into a top team and fight for wins. My main target from last year was to secure a top team and I had a very good year. Some ups and downs but overall I finished tenth and it was a good year and gave me the opportunity to come to the best team in Formula 1.
McLaren produced a very quick car last year but they had problems in pitstops and reliability. What have they said to you about their priorities in terms of fixing those kind of things this year?
SP: McLaren is such a team that can turn everything over from day to night and when the people so enthusiastic and so motivated it's not something that really worries me. We've got a strong base, a strong team and the people are very motivated to go for it. So I'm very happy in that respect.
Have you seen the new car yet?
SP: I have seen a bit of the car. I will get to see it a bit more. Obviously I have done the seat fit as well. Obviously it will look very nice because the colours are always great in the McLaren, but in terms of pace we will have to wait and see in Melbourne where we qualify.
A lot of drivers always have that belief that they can fight at the front and you're moving to a top team having already done that. Does that give you more confidence that the opportunities you've had you've done it and know what it's like and you only need to take that last step?
SP: As you say, it's only one step - but it's not about only winning races here, it's about winning championships here. The consistency to be able to deliver at 100% during 20 races in the season is not easy so it requires a lot of focus, a lot of preparation and I think I've got the team to do it.
Alonso nearly won the championship with lots of thirds and fourths. Is that a lesson you can learn from?
SP: I think the most important thing is to always finish and deliver the maximum result you can. If you don't finish it starts to get very tricky and as you say Alonso is a great example of what consistency does. Even if he didn't have the fastest car during the whole season he was up there the whole time.
Obviously the driver can do a lot and the most important is to stay cool and try to bring the car home in any condition. That's the target for this year.
Looking back at those final six races of last season, have you reflected on why things didn't quite click?
SP: Obviously I have to accept now that I made some mistakes but as well in the end the points didn't come for many reasons - not only in the mistake I did in Japan or other races. I think sometimes I put the car where we were not expected to be but for some reason or another we didn't manage to get the final result. But it was not lack of preparation or anything. For any team I'm driving I will always give 100% and that's the approach I've had.
So there wasn't any link to the fact you'd signed for McLaren?
SP: No. I see nothing to do with that.
Do you feel a bit sorry for Kamui being out of F1?
SP: To be honest a bit yeah because he's a great driver and somebody that can do a very good job for a team. So in a way I feel a bit sorry but I'm sure he will be back next year because with his speed he can find a good seat and hopefully we can have him back.
How do you see the pecking order going into the new season? The rules are fairly stable so do you expect the grid to get even closer than it was last year?
SP: I think it will be again very close. We might see some surprises as we saw last year. It will be very interesting but I expect to have a very competitive season.