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Sergio Perez Q&A: No repeats of Melbourne qualifying

27 Mar 2014

It’s not been the easiest start to 2014 for Sergio Perez. His first outing for Force India saw him qualify a disappointing 16th and then - thanks only to Daniel Ricciardo’s exclusion - pick up just a solitary point in Melbourne. To add insult to injury, the team who dropped him at the end of last year - McLaren - have reversed their miserable 2013 form to become frontrunners once more. So how is Perez’s head going into this weekend’s Malaysia round? We chatted exclusively with the Mexican to find out…

Q: Checo, looking at the McLaren situation right now - leading the constructors’ championship - you must feel that in 2013 it was a case of the wrong time and the wrong place for you. Now that you know they will be strong this season, is there a dose of anger?

Sergio Perez: Well, this is Formula One. ‘Hero to zero’ and vice versa is pretty common in this world. The McLaren history says that they’ve been a very strong team, very competitive over the years, and I was just unlucky to join them at the wrong time. In 2013 the team had its worst season in history. Unbelievable. But alas, there is nothing that can be done about it and now I am past it. It was a great lesson, as it made me understand the sport better and gave me a better understanding of how to manage my career. Hopefully one day I will get a good chance with a top team capable of winning the title - at the right time.

Q: But in the short term they’ve ruined your career?

SP: I don’t see it that way. Who would have known what happens tomorrow? Right now it might look that way, but you never know in this business where you’ll end up tomorrow.

Q: When you joined McLaren for 2013 you surely didn’t think that they would have such a miserable season - and now would you have ever believed that they could bounce back so fast? From nowhere to frontrunners…

SP: I knew somehow that this could happen. McLaren focused very early on the 2014 season. The development of the 2013 car was given up very early in the season to focus on 2014. That was McLaren’s target - all 2014. Unfortunately I didn’t see anything of it.

Q: Have you settled in at Force India in the meantime?

SP: Yes, I have settled here. The experiences that I’ve gained from my previous teams certainly helped the adaptation to speed up. And it is going well. We probably didn’t have the best debut, but I am sure when we keep improving we will get good results.

Q: Can you name three things that are completely different to McLaren?

SP: First, the budget. Second, the headcount, which translates into high efficiency and the ability to react to certain situations. I think that’s about it. Force India is a very capable team with great people. They’ve shown last year that they nearly beat McLaren. That means that on good days we can beat anybody. What I’ve learned lately is that being with one of the top teams doesn’t guarantee success. Force India on the contrary has shown that a lean budget can generate a good turnover in success.

Q: Can you talk us through your first race weekend with Force India? Qualifying seemed a bit difficult. What was the issue?

SP: It was a bit of an adaptation weekend as my race engineer was not there and so the second-in-line and me, we had to adapt. That made it a bit difficult. But right now we are in a good position to maximize the potential of the car. True, we are a bit behind expectations, but there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to do better in the coming races.

Q: It was you first taste of Force India under race conditions - how was that?

SP: As I just said, there were some irritations. And there were issues with the radio, which nowadays almost comes close to a death sentence. We had definitely hoped for an easier race, but nevertheless it was a good race.

Q: In the past when one car worked well and the other didn’t, you could easily apply the findings to the second car. Nowadays with all the software involved, this is far more difficult. Isn’t that frustrating for a driver?

SP: Well, it’s nothing you can change. You can only concentrate on your own readiness, making sure that you understand every switch and every procedure. Today a race driver has to think much more than in the past. Just having a lead foot is a thing of the past.

Q: That sounds as if a race car today is like a computer on wheels…

SP: … no, no, it’s still a race car. But yes, in some ways it works a bit like a computer game. (laughs)

Q: It was said that drivers would need three eyes this season: one on the fuel, one on the tyres and one on the track. What is the reality? Is it really an almost unmanageable task?

SP: Ha, it’s not easy, that’s true. But that’s Formula One: here you have to be complete. And F1 has always been a matter of how a driver can adapt to different situations, so that’s not really an issue.

Q: Nevertheless, both Force Indias ended in the points in Australia. Will that continue to be possible as long as some of the usual frontrunners have issues?

SP: We hope to keep that up until the end of the season. We, of course, have to keep improving to defend that position. Of course I think that Red Bull will come back very strong - they will be strong here - so we have to keep on fighting. We haven’t had an update so far - we are waiting for that update to keep our development rate close to the top guys.

Q: Does that mean you race here with the same car as in the last Bahrain test?

SP: Yes. We hope to bring something for Bahrain, but the main update will come in Barcelona.

Q: What about this weekend? Will you allow your team mate to again start nine places in front of you?

SP: No, of course not. Melbourne was a disappointing Saturday. It will not happen this Saturday!