Sergio Perez interview: The biggest challenge is to win 10 Jan 2013
After a trio of impressive podiums in Malaysia, Canada and Italy for Sauber in 2012, McLaren snapped up Sergio Perez to replace the outgoing Lewis Hamilton. On his first official day as a McLaren driver, the Mexican spoke candidly about how hes fitting into the Woking-based team, his preparation for the upcoming season and the importance of reaching the top step of the podium in 2013...
Q: Youve had a busy first day as an official McLaren driver. What have been your first impressions of the team and the factory?
Sergio Perez:Its been a great day, a very busy day, but an extremely nice day that I have really enjoyed. Ive really enjoyed my first day as an official McLaren driver. Its been very special.
Q: What are the things that you want to get addressed before the season starts?
SP: The most important for me is to get into the rhythm of everything automatically - the steering wheel, all the codes, understanding the set-up of the car and to develop good communication with my engineers. Its very important that I build my relationship with my engineers and the team so that when we go to the first test I am as familiar as possible with the team. Then when we get to Melbourne I will be well prepared, everything will be automatic and I wont have to think about so many things. The more prepared I can get, the better.
Q: What do you think you have to do to ensure that in 2013 youre the Sergio Perez that finished on the podium in Malaysia, Canada and Italy and not the Sergio Perez that failed to score any points in the last few races of 2012? Are there issues you have to address?
SP: Definitely. I think I have to take the positives from 2012, but also the negatives because you learn more from the negatives than the positives. I had a great season last year with a lot of learning and now it is another approach. The way I approach this year will be totally different.
Q: Have you spent much time with the technical personnel at McLaren like Paddy Lowe and Sam Michael?
SP: We had some meetings last year to start familiarising ourselves with each other. I think its going well. We are going in the right direction and we still have a month to go until the first test.
Q: Did you have the chance to express any preferences in terms of the car?
SP: Obviously it was difficult for me to give any input, but the team has already started to understand my driving style better from me driving in the simulator. But to be honest I didnt have much input on the new car.
Q: In terms of your preparation, is there anything youve done differently prior to your first season with McLaren?
SP: Yeah, on the fitness side Ive had very good preparation this winter. Ive reached a good level already and I still have a month until the first test and two months until the first race in Australia. I think Ill arrive in Australia as fit as Ive ever been, so thats very positive.
Q: There are only 12 pre-season test days this year and you have to share half of those with new team mate Jenson Button. Will that give you enough time to be at your best from the first race of the season or will there still be a lot of familiarisation going on in the first races?
SP: I think it will take a bit of time with just six days of testing. Youve got to get familiar with the team, but I expect myself to be competitive in Melbourne.
Q: Youre in a new team, youve got a new team mate and the tyres are changing too. Whats going to be the biggest challenge in 2013?
SP: I think the biggest challenge is to win. We are all here to win and that is the challenge we are facing at McLaren.
Q: Theres always pressure in F1 racing, but do you think it will be more intense at McLaren?
SP: Definitely. When you come to McLaren you are expected to win every race because you are in the best team. If you are not winning there is something wrong. So in that respect I expect more pressure, but as a driver you are looking to be in a top team and to win races and championships.
Q: How much are you looking forward to working with Jenson Button?
SP: I am so much looking forward to working with a champion and a great guy. The whole team has so much respect for him. Im looking forward to building up my relationship with him and to helping the team build up the best car possible. I think Jenson and I are going to have a good relationship. I think I have a lot I can learn from him - all his experience and knowledge will be very useful.
Q: In the past, one of your strengths has been managing tyre degradation. Do you feel the 2013 tyres are going to play to your strengths?
SP: I think the approach this year is different. At Sauber it helped me because the approach was always to maximise the race potential and not so much qualifying. Here the target is to get pole position and then win the race. Usually the fastest strategy is to do more stops and push all the time. In that respect I will try to help with my style and my understanding of the tyre, but I think the approach needs to be different. We need to attack more in qualifying and extract the maximum from the race.
Q: Whats the plan for this month? Have you got a lot of simulator time booked in before the first test?
SP: Yeah, basically we start tomorrow with some preparation and simulator work and then meetings with the team. Well start talking about the car and Ill also be getting to know the new steering wheel. I will be in the UK quite a lot in January.
Q: You didnt have a simulator at Sauber. How have you found it using one? Was it an interesting experience?
SP: It was very interesting. McLaren bases so much on the simulator. Its been a good experience but obviously it takes a little while to get used to the feeling of the simulator.
Q: Facility-wise, have you sensed that McLaren is a step up compared to Sauber?
SP: The facilities here at McLaren are amazing. If you compare them to Sauber - who have good facilities in F1 - its another level. In terms of the people and the way they approach their jobs, the enthusiasm they have at McLaren is amazing and it gives you a big boost. From the outside the team might look cold and difficult but I was surprised when I came here to see how friendly and close everyone is. Everyones target is to win and I think thats what makes them so successful.
Q: How have things been back home in Mexico? Has the McLaren move raised your profile?
SP: Yes. Obviously anybody that knows Formula One knows McLaren and knows that theyre the greatest team. So my profile has been raised quite a bit since Ive joined McLaren.
Q: At what point did you feel ready to step up to a top-three team like McLaren?
SP: I really felt in my first year as a driver that I was hungry to go into a top team and to fight for wins. My main target last year was to secure a place with a top team. I had a very good year in 2012, there were some ups and downs, but overall I finished tenth in the championship and that gave me the opportunity to come into the best team in F1.
Q: McLaren had a few problems with reliability last year. What have they said to you about fixing that for this year?
SP: I think McLaren are the sort of team that can turn everything around from day to night. When you see that the people here are so enthusiastic and motivated its not something that worries me. We have a strong base and a strong team.
Q: Have you seen your car yet, do you know what it will look like?
SP: Yes Ive seen a bit of the car. Obviously it will look very nice because the colours are always great on the McLaren! As for pace, well have to wait until Melbourne to see where we qualify.
Q: Youve already proved you can race wheel-to-wheel with the likes of Alonso and Hamilton - does that give you more confidence? Do you feel only a step away from a victory?
SP: Its not only about winning races - here its about winning championships as well. The consistency to be able to deliver 100 percent in every race is not easy - it requires a lot of focus and a lot of preparation.
Q: Alonso nearly won the 2012 title with just three wins but lots of seconds, thirds and fourths. Is that an important lesson?
SP: Yeah, I think the most important thing is to always finish and to try to deliver the maximum result you can. As soon as you fail to finish it makes things very tricky. As you say, Alonso is a great example of what consistency does - even though he didnt have the fastest car throughout the season, he was up there the whole time.
Q: Looking back at the final races of last season, do you understand why things didnt click?
SP: Yes. Obviously I have to accept that I made some mistakes. But then the points didnt come for many reasons, not just mistakes like the one I made in Japan. Sometimes I put the car where we didnt expect to be, but we didnt manage to get the final result. But it was not through a lack of preparation. Whatever team Im driving for, Ill always give 100 percent.
Q: A lot of people linked your poor performances towards the end of the season with the increase in pressure and attention that came with you signing for McLaren. Was there any link?
SP: No, I see nothing to do with it.
Q: Your former Sauber team mate Kamui Kobayashi looks unlikely to get a place on the 2013 grid. Do you feel sorry for him?
SP: Yeah I do to be honest. Hes a great driver and a great guy and someone who can do a very good job for a team. So I feel a bit sorry for him but Im sure hell be back next year because with his speed he should be able to find a good seat and hopefully well have him back next year.
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