Q: In 2011 Monaco could have been the end of your racing career with your qualifying accident - and still this circuit is your favourite. What kind of love-hate relationship is that?
Sergio Perez: Ha, yes, it must be love-hate. (laughs) It is Monaco - and what I can do on this track. I love doing my job here! Here you feel the limit more than at every other track. These streets and an F1 car - that is fascinating madness, an amazing experience! Yes, my career was pretty close to being over here in 2011, but I still love it. Contrary to what people might think I have very good memories of this circuit. I usually do very well around here - even though I have never scored points. I am quick around these streets - and I am looking forward to Sunday to get my first points!
Q: Is there still a sense of caution when you exit the tunnel and approach the harbour chicane?
SP: It’s nothing more than a mere thought - ‘hey, it was here where I had a shunt’ - but nothing changes in my approach. Nothing has changed with 2011. No bad memories. This is probably one of the qualities that an F1 driver has to have: to put things like this immediately behind you and move on to another page… You know the level of risk that you are taking - and that level in Monaco is high. Here you have to give it all. If not then you are in the wrong place and the advice would be to move to another sport!
Q: Force India have fallen behind somewhat in the last couple of races - can you explain where the glitches are, given the fact that you use the Mercedes power unit?
SP: Well, other teams have brought upgrades in Barcelona and we haven’t brought anything. Our upgrade is planned for Silverstone. After Silverstone we can make a better judgment of where we are. Yes, it has been a difficult season so far and it will not really get much better until Silverstone - but Monaco could be the exception to that rule. Here there are always big opportunities when you’re only there to take them.
Q: Is Monaco the next best bet for points, as it is a track where many things that matter elsewhere don’t matter at all?
SP: Yes, but it’s not the kind of difference that you start at the end of the grid somewhere else and suddenly end up on pole here in Monaco. The track helps - maybe in the range of a few positions ahead of where you normally are. I have a good record here. Here none of my team mates has ever beaten me in qualifying.
Q: How strategically to you have to think in Monaco if you don’t have the most competitive car? Here qualifying can mean the world…
SP: Contrary to what people probably think, strategy doesn’t play such a big role here. In the last few years it has always been a one-stop race, so track position has been crucial. The best strategy you can have for this race is Saturday! (laughs)
Q: So what is your best-case scenario?
SP: Being as close as possible to Q3.
Q: That sounds like you will be surprised if you make it into Q3?
SP: Yes, extremely surprised. All the previous years I’ve made it into Q3 but I’m guessing not this time. But let’s see what we can pull out of our sleeves.
Q: Can Force India be more relaxed about their position because they know that at least two teams ahead - Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso - will face penalties for using more than four engines this season? They are already on number four…
SP: It doesn’t change anything for us. We want to do well and are in fact very disappointed about our performance so far. We are not happy at all and want to get back to where we deserve to be. But whatever happens to Red Bull or Toro Rosso is not on our radar.
Q: Would it make a significant change if the Silverstone upgrade were already here this weekend?
SP: Yes, of course. Because from everything I know it is a very promising upgrade. But I also know engineers for many years: they sometimes get over excited and when you bring it to the track it doesn’t work as well as hoped. But right now we are very optimistic about the B-spec as we are calling it. But you never can say for certain how much it really will mean in lap time. Let’s wait and see.
Q: Wasn’t the first plan to bring this upgrade to Austria?
SP: Yes, and we will still push to bring it there, but what I hear from the factory is that we will very likely bring it to Silverstone. The track is just a stone’s throw away from our factory so we have a better chance to adjust things than in Austria.
Q: It’s now your fifth season. How far away are you from the plan you had in mind when entering F1 racing?
SP: Very far off! I came here to become a world champion. Things change so quickly here. I fully concentrate on the present and maximize the team’s performance and mine every two weeks. I think I am driving at a very good level - probably my best level since I’ve been in F1. Although the results are not there I think I am doing a very good job.
Q: When was your happiest time?
SP: I am enjoying my time at Force India, but probably my happiest time was with Sauber in 2012. The car was very competitive and I had three podiums that year. Podiums do change your level of happiness.
Q: Ignoring the odds, what’s on your mind for Sunday?
SP: Points. No idea how many - but points. I have the strong feeling I will make points on Sunday.