BMW Saubers Sergio Perez: I feel at home already 18 Nov 2010
Sergio Perez will race for BMW Sauber in 2011. This week his first test with the team made headlines in his native Mexico, not just on the sports pages, but on the front pages of national newspapers. Its been a long time since a Mexican graced the F1 grid and the countrys excitement is overwhelming - even President Felipe Calderon called Perez to wish him luck with his F1 career. And with the prospect of a US Grand Prix in 2012 close to the Mexican border, both driver and supporters are anticipating good times ahead. We caught up with Perez in Abu Dhabi...
Q: Sergio, how long have you been dreaming about driving a Formula One car?
Sergio Perez: Since I was six years old, when I was going karting with my dad and my brother for the first time, I was dreaming of making it into Formula One one day. All my family have been involved in motorsport for a long time. My father was racing himself at one stage - he used to be a kind of manager to Adrian Fernandez. My brother Antonio, who is 24 now, is a racing driver too. He just became Mexican NASCAR champion. It was always my aim to make it into Formula One and I always knew I had to sacrifice things. I knew I had to leave my country and my family and make my own life in Europe at a very young age.
Q: How do you feel a day after this dream came true - mentally and physically?
SP: I feel stronger in both regards and my motivation to work on both has even increased. I have a few months now to get ready for my first F1 event and I will use that time very carefully.
Q: What did it mean to you to be the first Mexican driver in an F1 car for three decades. The impact and interest in Mexico is enormous - does that mean a lot of pressure for you, or is it an honour?
SP: It is very nice motivation. I know I have a big support from my fans in Mexico. I love Mexico and the Mexicans love racing. They are very enthusiastic and of course the expectations are high. It is a big thing for me and Im really looking forward to making a long career in F1.
Q: You have just completed a very successful GP2 season and now you are stepping up to Formula One. What was the biggest difference compared to the GP2 car?
SP: The biggest difference is on braking, the lateral forces. And the grip level of the car is just unbelievably high compared to a GP2 car. Also there is a lot of information and procedures you have to deal with. The team is big - you have many engineers around you asking for feedback. In GP2 I had only one engineer. Of course also the power of the F1 car is different. Traction, cornering speeds - everything is a big step up.
Q: After the first day of testing and having the successful GP2 season under your belt, do you feel ready for Formula One?
SP: Yes, I do. I think Im ready. I know I have a lot to learn and a lot to work on. But this is my dream, I will make it happen and I believe I can succeed in F1.
Q: What is the most important thing you learned from this first test?
SP: This is to learn to work in the environment of an F1 team. To see what they expect from a driver - in and out of the car - and to get used to a lot of procedures. I think for Saturday I learned a lot and Im looking forward to using this and learning more.
Q: On Saturday afternoon you will jump in the C29 again to do half a day of testing with the new Pirelli tyres. Do you have any experience with tyre testing?
SP: In F3 and GP2 I did some tyre testing, but Im sure in F1 this will be very different. And it will be interesting for me to see the difference between the Bridgestone and the Pirelli tyres. Again, I will learn as much as possible.
Q: The BMW Sauber team is known to deal well with rookies. Can you feel this? Do you regard it as an advantage? How do you expect your work with the team to develop?
SP: Yes, I think they know well how to treat a rookie. They gave me a lot of support. They got me to learn different things about F1 every day. This is a very good team for me, I am very happy to be with them and I feel already at home.
Q: How much difference did it make to you yesterday to have a signed contract in your pocket, unlike most of the other young drivers testing?
SP: It changed things in a very positive way. Because I did not have the pressure to do a super test, I could concentrate on learning as much as possible. We tried a lot of things in the car and apparently the engineers were happy with my feedback. And in the end I even did a good lap time, although I had only one shot with fresh tyres due to bad luck with some red flags.
Q: When did talks with BMW Sauber first start?
SP: It started around mid-season. It was my year to make it into F1. I had to do a very strong season in GP2 and it turned out to be difficult, with a lot of technical failures on the car. But still we did good races and won five of them.
Q: How much did the Slim family support you in your career?
SP: A lot. Carlos Slim Junior took me on when I was only 14, since when weve had a contract. It always was, and still is a very close relationship. I think in the last few years Ive received more phone calls from him than from my dad. Sometimes he was even angry when things didnt go well and he guided me in good directions. He is a very close friend of mine and he is a great guy to be influenced by.
Q: Financial support is one thing, but it must have made you very proud to have such support - what does it mean emotionally?
SP: It means a lot to me. It was never just a sponsors support - it always was a lot more, a very intense relationship for many years. I was kind of losing my head for a while, when I came to Germany to live in a small bedroom belonging to a restaurant of the team owner in the small village of Vilsbiburg in Bavaria, I was only 15 and all on my own. I had left Mexico to make my dream come true but it was not easy. Carlos helped me a lot with good advice to keep focused and work on that dream.
Q: What will you be doing in the winter break?
SP: Training like hell! I need to be as fit as possible for the first race. And I will be spending a lot of time with the engineers in Hinwil to try to learn as much as possible about the C30. In January I will move to Switzerland to be close to the team.
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