Exclusive Sergio Perez Q&A: Sauber moving in right direction 22 Feb 2012
After a few technical difficulties, this weeks Barcelona test isnt going wholly to plan for Saubers Sergio Perez. But, despite the limited mileage, Perez remains optimistic that the team is making steady progress and that his new car will be competitive once the season gets underway
Q: Sergio, you are heading into your second season, what did you learn from your rookie year?
Sergio Perez: To put it simply I have more idea about what I am doing. I can do more than just learning to do the basics, like being able to handle the steering wheel. Now I can focus on so many other things and this can be seen at these pre-season tests, even though we were a bit unhappy on the first day in Barcelona, as we werent able to do as much mileage as we would have wanted. I have learnt to understand what I want from the car and how I can communicate this to my engineers. As a rookie you sometimes feel that experience is overrated, but from what I know now, I can say that it helps to have 19 races and a lot of test mileage under my belt.
Q: You have said that it took you longer to recover from your accident in Monaco than you expected. How did you fight your way back?
SP: Well, it really took longer than I would have guessed. I'd estimate that it took me until the Budapest race to fully recover and be my old self. It was really surprising that when I arrived in Budapest suddenly everything was back to normal. Obviously one day can change a lot. From then on, it was as if nothing ever happened.
Q: Your Sauber seemed to struggle towards the end of last season. How is the new car performing?
SP: Well, so far I think that we havent reached our full potential. I think we still have some steep mountains to climb, as we are facing some issues at the moment which we have to eliminate. We have to understand how to make the best out of the car that we have right now and then we can start to look around to see where that puts us. My overall feeling is that we will be competitive. Everything else will have to wait until the Malaysia race, as Melbourne is such an unusual track that it is hard to judge anything there.
Q: What is your gut feeling?
SP: That we are going in the right direction and the team is doing a good job. I could imagine fighting for points on a frequent basis.
Q: How are you coming to terms with the much lower grip level?
SP: To be honest I dont feel a big difference compared to last years car. We werent running the low exhaust last year so the difference in terms of the grip level is rather marginal. What does that tell me about our situation? That we do not have to rack our brains over the newly-detected loss of grip, whilst the teams who had the most competitive cars last season do? Well, that would be too easy an assumption, but then again, we are heading in the right direction and sometimes one less problem to solve can make a difference! (laughs)
Q: You have already expressed your concern about the departure of technical director James Key. That was a few weeks ago. Has the void been filled in a positive way?
SP: Yes, because we have good people in the factory to fill the void. I was at Hinwil last week and it is fantastic to see how everybody was working flat-out to bring the car forward. Of course James departure is regrettable as he was a good leader of the technical department but the team is making up for his departure, which motivates me to look very positively to the new season.
Q: Your team principal Peter Sauber said that he was satisfied with you and team mate Kamui Kobayashi last season. What is he expecting from you this year?
SP: Peter is very experienced in bringing a driver up to the next level. And of course he wants the best for his drivers as this also benefits the team. I think that he is expecting big things from me this season and I hope I will not let him down.
Q: What about you? Has your career been developing in line with your ambitions?
SP: So far its been okay. Of course Ive lost a lot due to my Monaco accident and then the car performance somewhat stalled, as we didnt implement the blown exhaust which cost us a lot, but even so Ive been able to bag some points. Overall I am happy with my career in the first year but this year should be a year to move forward. When you come into Formula One you probably are a bit blue-eyed as youve won in other series quite easily. Sure I thought that I would fight for podiums in due course. And then at one point realism sets in and you realise where your team and your car is. Then it becomes paramount to take the maximum out of the car that you have at every race.
Q: After one season has Mexico got fully behind you?
SP: Wow, yes, I get a lot of support from back home. Mexico has a long tradition of Formula One, even though there has not been a Mexican driver for around 30 years. Mexicans are fond of Formula One and I would say that every citizen knows about Formula One. That gives me a lot of motivation.
Q: So will we see all your fans in Austin, Texas, this season?
SP: Oh yes, I am sure there will be many Mexicans cheering for me!
Q: Its a little over three weeks until the Melbourne race. What are your hopes, wishes, and expectations?
SP: Well, first things first, I want to take the maximum out of the three days testing that I have in the car. Then I will prepare myself for the first race weekend of the new season. I will sit down with my engineers to analyse last years race again. I want to arrive in Melbourne with the best ammunition possible!
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