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Exclusive Q&A with Force India's Sergio Perez

09 Jan 2014

After a season of unexpected struggle at McLaren, Sergio Perez begins a new chapter in his Formula One career this year, lining up at Force India alongside another of the paddock’s brightest young talents, Nico Hulkenberg. So can Perez really progress in 2014, or is he back in a holding pattern as he awaits a true shot at title glory? We spoke to the 23-year-old Mexican to find out…

Q: Sergio, it was expected for a while that you would join Force India, but can you talk us through the hiring process?

Sergio Perez: When it was confirmed that I was leaving McLaren, Sahara Force India was always my first option. It is a very good team and in the same way as me, it is hungry for success. The discussions with Sahara Force India started around the time of the race in Austin. I attended a couple of meetings and held several telephone conferences before everything came to a positive agreement. The official announcement that I was going to race for Force India then came on the 10th of December at the Mexican Embassy in London with Vijay Mallya. It was a quite emotional moment.

Q: Your career has taken a turn you probably hadn’t planned. Joining McLaren from Sauber was expected to be a direct route to title contention, but now it seems you are back in a ‘holding pattern’. How do you see your situation?

SP: It has been a very important learning path in my career. I don't regret anything: McLaren is a great team and I will always respect them. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the season did not go as expected and we ended up without a podium. The situation I am in now is different, but it's also exciting. I do not see myself as in a ‘holding patter’ and this is part of my journey in Formula One. I strongly believe that my success is yet to be seen.

Q: Is staying in Formula One racing more important than which team you are with?

SP: For me it was important not to just be in Formula One, but to be part of a team that is hungry and ambitious. Force India is a team that has constantly progressed - and a lot recently when they finished sixth in the constructors’ championship - so I think this is a great opportunity for me. My view is that they were strong last year and this year gives us a good chance to be even stronger together.

Q: McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh was obviously instrumental in the Force India deal. What’s your guess: was he conscience stricken?

SP: I know Martin was keen to see me continue in Formula One and I appreciated his support. He is a great friend and I wish him and the team the very best.

Q: Moving up the grid from Sauber to McLaren - from Hinwil to Woking - no doubt involved an element of ‘culture shock’. Is that situation now reversed as you go from Woking to Silverstone?

SP: I do not see it entirely that way. Although the physical differences are obvious from factory to factory, the culture of Formula One teams is very similar, as they all want to be competitive. Wherever I find myself I have always and will always give my best and I trust my current team to do the same for me. So there is no 'culture shock'.

Q: You could say that Force India were the best midfield team of 2013, while McLaren were the worst frontrunner team of 2013. What do you think that means for 2014?

SP: That gives me very big motivation for the 2014 season. I feel confident that together with Force India we can do a good job over the winter and start the season in good shape. The team did that last year and they have been focused on the 2014 car for a long time. These are all positives.

Q: Looking at the driver line-ups for 2014, Force India’s pairing looks pretty competitive. How do you see having Nico next to you in the garage?

SP: Nico is a very competitive and experienced driver. He has also been with Force India before. I hope to learn as much from him as I can and I'm definitely looking forward to racing next to him. I am sure we will have a great - and successful - season together.

Q: It could be argued that Nico is the better qualifier whereas you are the better racer. Will you both be willing to shuffle your talents together?

SP: I hope to learn as much from Nico as I expect him to learn from me, so eventually we will embark on a steep, two-way learning curve - hopefully with eyebrow raising results! I think I'm a better driver after the year with McLaren, and being strong in every area is - and always will be - my focus.