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Sergio Perez Q&A: Sauber could be even stronger in Malaysia 07 Apr 2011

Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 7 April 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 27 March 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04 and Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 27 March 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 7 April 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber, who finished seventh on his GP debut, celebrates. Both Sauber cars were later disqualified due to technical infringments.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 27 March 2011

When he joined Sauber over the winter, Telmex-backed Sergio Perez was labelled by some as a pay driver. But Perez’s debut performance at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix showed he was anything but. Expert tyre control and some plucky passing manoeuvres saw him finish strongly in seventh. And while a technical infringement on his C30 eventually saw the Mexican (and team mate Kamui Kobayashi) disqualified from the points, Perez’s ambitions haven’t been dimmed and he’s hoping to make an even bigger splash in Sepang this weekend, as he explained exclusively to Formula1.com…

Q: Sergio, your first Formula One race was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. You finished in the points and then you found yourself disqualified for technical reasons. What were your thoughts when you heard the news?
Sergio Perez:
I just kept in my mind that I still had a great debut and raced really well. Also it was a great day for the team, despite what has happened afterwards. I just remembered what I did during the race, and the final result is just another page of the story. I am just so very happy to have had such a great debut.

Q: Can you talk us through your first Formula One race experience?
SP:
At the beginning I lost a lot of positions, as I was on the prime tyres and the car was heavy with fuel, so I tried to do a very long stint even though I was very slow. After pitting, I went out on the option tyres and that was a very nice surprise for us. I let Sebastian Vettel past because I lost some time, so he was in front of me, but later I was even quicker than him though again I lost some time. After he pitted I was in front of him, and I tried to carry out a controlled race and to manage my tyres. It went really well and we managed to make only one pit stop, which was a very positive surprise for us. The strategy of having only one pit stop came during the race, so it was not really planned by us. In the technical and strategy meeting we were talking about two, or even three stops.

Q: Were you surprised by how competitive the car is? And how competitive you can be in the car?
SP:
Yes, that was a big surprise, as my idea was to manage the tyres and stop them degrading too much. As soon as you have this degradation it means that you have to pit. After ten laps it was looking very good, and also after 20 laps. After 30 laps we said that we might as well finish with that set of tyres, even though I was running out of rubber in the end. And we managed to finish in seventh place. Over the winter tests we said our aim should be to finish within the points, and we did exactly that. Kamui and I had great races, and I think we did the maximum that we could. If we have another weekend like that here in Malaysia we would be even happier.

Q: Not many of this year’s rookies can look back on such a fantastic debut. Were you glad to be able to show your talents, especially given that some had labelled you a ‘pay driver’?
SP:
Since my very first Formula One press conference I was labelled as only being here because I pay for my seat, or because my sponsor Telmex pays for it. It is not very nice to hear, as the people that say these things do not know what effort it cost me to get here. I had to leave my home and many other things to become a Formula One driver. Now having succeeded quite well in my debut race, it feels very good to maybe remind people that I am not a pay driver.

Q: Sauber had a tough time last season despite having at least one driver (Pedro de la Rosa, and then his replacement Nick Heidfeld) with a heap of experience. This season they have a rookie and a driver in just his second season, and they are achieving a lot. Is experience overrated?
SP:
Maybe sometimes yes. Of course experience helps you in Formula One, but I have great support from my team Sauber, and also from the Ferrari Academy, as they helped me prepare for my season. Still we’re only one race down, and there’s a very long way to go. I know that I am very motivated for what is coming next.

Q: Mexico must have been excited by your performance. What feedback did you get? Your sponsor must be very satisfied…
SP:
Yes, for sure. It has been a very long wait for Mexico to have another Formula One driver - 31 years. I have never seen a Mexican F1 driver myself. So for me this is very special, as is all the support that I get from home. Now Formula One is getting very big there and I hope that some day we are going to host another Grand Prix in Mexico. I am sure it could be the best Grand Prix ever in F1. The fans are just great over there. I had a roadshow a few months ago and 200,000 people came and cheered for me. One of my dreams would be to drive as an F1 driver in my home country. Of course it is also important for me that I can give something back to Scuderia Telmex, who support me and put their trust in me. So for me that means a good payback, and I hope that I am able to pay back everything.

Q: How helpful is it that you’ve also raced in the GP2 Asia Series. You’ve sampled Sepang before because of that experience…
SP:
For sure it helps if you know a circuit, as you do not need to waste time learning it. You can go out and immediately look for the right references and get up to speed right away. I didn’t know Melbourne at all, so knowing Sepang is a bit of a benefit.

Q: The car had to be modified after the technical infringement. Will you still be able to match your Melbourne performance?
SP:
Every weekend is different and a new opportunity. I would be more than happy if I am able to do the same as I did in Melbourne. But I know that I always want more, so I hope that I can do even better. Still I have to be realistic and just keep aiming for points here. The car itself I think will be even better than in Australia.

Q: Your nickname is Checo. Why?
SP:
In Mexico all Sergios are automatically called Checo.

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