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McLaren: Perez a good team player 21 May 2013

Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 11 May 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 11 May 2013 (L to R): Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer, Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren and Carlos Slim Sr (MEX).
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Sergio Perez (MEX) McLaren MP4-28 and Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday, 21 April 2013 Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Practice, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, 19 April 2013 McLaren-Honda MP4-4

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has praised the attitude of Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez in the wake of the team’s disappointing start to 2013.

The 23-year-old joined the Woking-based team from Sauber ahead of the season, but with the MP4-28 failing to live up expectations, Perez and team mate Jenson Button have so far been unable to fight for race wins.

Speaking in a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in on Tuesday, Whitmarsh said that not only has the Mexican formed a strong partnership with Button, but his performances are moving in the right direction as well.

“Checo is showing the intelligence that we saw in him before (we signed him),” he said. “He has natural pace, he’s growing in confidence and he’s still learning. He’s more than a decade behind Jenson in terms of experience and you can’t acquire that knowledge bank overnight, but I think he’s working in a positive direction and is a good team player.”

“We’re really blessed with both drivers because through the difficult times we’ve had so far this year they’ve been incredibly supportive and positive, working hard together and motivating the team. I’m grateful for that and pleased with both of them. We’re very happy with our driver line-up. If we give them a better car - as we aim to - I’m sure we’ll have some better results.”

Having scored just two points in the opening three races, Perez grabbed a strong sixth in Bahrain after a thrilling wheel-to-wheel battle with Button. He carried that momentum into Spain where he put in his best qualifying performance of the season and finished just behind Button in ninth.

“I think his trajectory is definitely going in the right direction,” said Whitmarsh. “There’s been an enormous amount of pressure. He didn’t make any mistakes in the early races, but then I think he was very conscious not to make mistakes.

“I sense now that he’s stepped it up - in the race before last (Bahrain) he outraced Jenson and I think that was good for his confidence, even though it wasn’t always good for my heart watching! His qualifying performance in Q2 in Spain was him stepping it up again, and that’s what he has to do.

“Jenson is a tremendous benchmark - he’s the ultimate professional and has more than a decade more experience than Checo. To come into a team with all those pressures and a comparative lack of experience, if you’re going to be a star of the future, you’ve got to beat your team mate. He’s getting stuck into that now.”

Perez is five points adrift from Button in the drivers’ standings heading into this weekend’s Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2013, the first race since McLaren confirmed a multi-year technical partnership with Honda, beginning in 2015. Speaking about the deal, Whitmarsh said that the tie-up will provide McLaren with a platform for future success.

“Moving to Honda in 2015 gives us the bedrock of being one of the big teams and ensures that in the long-term we’ve got the resources and the correct structure and focus to be successful,” he explained.

"Clearly I'd like to win this weekend (in Monaco), and a bit more in the course of this year and next, but we're a team with 182 grand prix victories and in the long-term we know that we’ve got to put in place a programme, a business structure and a set of resources that provide us with a platform to be successful every year in the foreseeable future."

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