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Sergio Perez Q&A: Sochi podium has inspired Force India

22 Oct 2015

Some daring strategy, some excellent driving, and a deserved dose of good luck saw Sergio Perez and Force India back on the podium at the last round in Russia. Can they carry that momentum on to Austin this weekend - and then on to Perez's home race next weekend? The Mexican driver certainly hopes so, as he explained exclusively to…

Q: Checo, Sochi was the fifth podium of your F1 career. Which one was the sweetest, which the most difficult to achieve and which the most unexpected?

Sergio Perez: Ha, to begin with Sochi was fantastic - after a long drought! But to answer your question, the most unexpected was Monza 2012: imagine being on the podium in Ferrari-land. The most difficult was the podium in Bahrain last year: I had joined Force India after a difficult 2013 McLaren season with no podium at all, and then wow, in my third race the podium in Bahrain! That was quite something. The sweetest? That too was Bahrain 2014 - it revived all my spirits again.

Q: Can you talk us through your Sochi race? What was the key moment that made it happen?

SP: Of course one of the key moments was the safety car - and that we took advantage of that. But my first 20 laps on the first set of tyres had put me in that strong position, to take that advantage when it came. And then, of course, looking after the tyres after my early pitting.

Q: Luck was also an element: to be in that part of the track when the safety car came out and you pitted. With a different track position how would your race have been?

SP: For sure no podium, but probably P5. Definitely not as good as P3 and a podium.

Q: How hard was it to keep the tyres alive, and how much did you have to defend every lap?

SP: It was a difficult race - not so much from the point of defending my position, but from managing the tyres. I was getting into a stage where the front tyres were worn massively - in fact there was very little rubber left on the rim! (laughs) If I’d had a flat spot - which could have easily happened with the condition my tyres were in - then that would have meant the end for my race. I was very aware of that tricky situation, so my last 15 to 20 laps was more a case of carrying the car around the track.

Q: Had you ever imagined you could do so many laps on one set of tyres? It was quite a risky business…

SP: When we opted for that strategy after I came in during the safety car I thought it wouldn’t be possible, as in the first ten laps after my pit stop we were experiencing very big levels of degradation. But then the pit wall told me that I was doing well - and they were right!

Q: Two laps before the chequered flag all the defending seemed to be in vane as both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas passed you. Was that a moment of anger or disappointment?

SP: It was just the realization that the tyres were completely gone. In that stage Kimi and Valtteri were pulling two seconds in a couple of corners, so there was no means of resistance. I even thought that it would be difficult to make those two laps until the chequered flag.

Q: No outburst of emotion under the helmet then, seeing a certain podium slipping away?

SP: Sure you think the ‘s’ word, being so close to a podium. I said to myself, ‘Checo, another chance just has gone out of the window’. But two corners later I had calmed down and told myself, ‘Checo, you have driven a great race - no need to lament. Go and fight until the end and pick up whatever points you can!’

Q: But then out of the blue Kimi took Valtteri out. Could you believe your luck?

SP: Imagine, you come to Turn 4 and suddenly see that these two had some contact - and here you go: a race is never finished until it is finished. So I knew that I had to be very cautious to get the car over the finish line. I was so proud of me and my team. Sure in the end the result was a lucky one, but we had worked so hard in the race - acting smart, using the chances that opened up. When I stood on the podium I had the feeling that I deserved it as I was third for most of the race. So in the end it was a just result.

Q: That strategy you were running on - was that something you discussed with the team via team radio after the safety car came out?

SP: It was solely a team decision. I understood that it was a risky decision, but we all stood behind that decision and it paid off.

Q: Has Kimi now become your best buddy?

SP: He sure became one of my favourite characters in the paddock! (laughs)

Q: With Mr Putin on the podium that must have been a very special moment, and the trophy is unique - with the Russian flag in precious stones? Where is the trophy now?

SP: It is in the office in the factory. Maybe one day it will disappear from there. Right now I only have the sweet memory, but I also want the physical evidence! (laughs) I hope I will get a copy. I have all my trophies, so I hope I get this one too.

Q: Last time we spoke you were tenth in the drivers’ standings. Now you are up to ninth. Can it get better?

SP: I think I am still a fair way off the guy ahead. Nineteen points are quite a big hurdle - but then when you look back at Sochi and my 15-point yield, I feel free to say that anything can happen! There are still four races to go. If we keep our momentum going, why not? The car is getting better and better, even if the gap to the big teams is still there. But we are working very hard and the Sochi podium inspires all of us.

Q: We are getting ever closer to your home race, but before then we have Austin - not traditionally a great place for you. Will that change this weekend - to get you in the right mood for Mexico?

SP: I think I am in a good moment in my career, so I see no reason why I should not do well here. Right now I have barely thought about my home race as I am fully concentrated on the job I have to do this weekend. I have to do the business here in Austin! The real excitement of having a home race will arrive on Sunday evening. And believe me, no matter what I am able to do this Sunday, my Mexican fans will be there. Of course I will try to give them a strong weekend here to make it even sweeter to come to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Q: With the tailwind of the Sochi podium, what are your expectations for the weekend?

SP: I think right now we are meandering between P4 and P5. It should be a finish in the points - hopefully good points!