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Perez: 'Right attitude and respect' essential in new team mate

21 Oct 2016

After all the rumours suggesting Sergio Perez could leave Force India for 2017, in the end it is long-time team mate Nico Hulkenberg who's departing - for Renault - while Perez stays put for next season. We caught up with the Mexican for an exclusive chat about the situation - and what qualities he hopes for in his new team mate...

Q: Checo, you have recently re-signed with Force India again? Why - and why did it take so long to announce it?

Sergio Perez: Ha, it took so long because my deal is a bit complex. We had to do the commercial deal with my sponsors first, because for me it is very important that they are bearing with me in the same team. And that took longer to get that sorted out. I always go with my sponsors to the team I drive for, so it was important for me that this matter was in place first - and then it was pretty straightforward that I signed.  

Q: Was there a delay because you knew about Nico Hulkenberg's move and wanted to sort out what his departure would mean for you?

SP: No, that has nothing to do with me. My decision is not dependant on what other drivers do or think. I do my own thing and try to extract the most for my own future. 

Q: You always said that you feel comfortable at Force India and that you like stability. But with Nico leaving the team that stability suffers a setback. How do you deal with that? 

SP: No, I don't see it that way. I take new things from a new driver. That can make you better. 

Q: When did you find out that Nico was leaving?

SP: When I committed again to Force India I learned that Renault was rating Nico very highly and eventually wanting to get him. That's when I knew that he was on Renault's list and that they would try to unglue him from Force India. 

Q: Pascal Wehrlein or Esteban Ocon have been mooted by the media as possible new team mates for you - both still in their rookie season. What would having a team mate with so little experience mean - for you and the team?

SP: First of all it is important that the new guy comes with the right attitude to push the team further to the front. And, of course, that he is a very fast driver. Having a fast driver next to you who understands what the car is doing is very important for me, as it will also push me forward. With Nico and myself that has worked really well over the last three years, so I hope that will also be the case with the new guy. With Nico I always knew that if I didn't get the perfect qualifying lap he was going to beat me and vice versa - and that pushes a team massively forward. 

Q: Do you have any preference as to who should be the guy in the garage next to you?

SP: The Force India seat is probably the best one available, so I can imagine that a lot of drivers have a strong desire to come here. That is great for my team. The rest is up to my bosses to make the best decision. And if they pick someone it is because they have done the right analysis. So let's see. I don't have any preference and it is nothing that I chew on. We don't have to be best friends - I am not best friends with Nico either. The magic word is respect. Nico and me, we have a respectful relationship.

Q: With only four races to go, what is Nico's best quality?

SP: He is one of the fastest drivers out there. And he's also super on damp tracks…

Q: ...and off track?

SP: I didn't spend a lot of time with him. But we knew each other for many years, living close when we both lived in Oxford. And probably now that we are no longer team mates, we will get along even better. I see that with Jenson Button: once we weren't team mates any longer the relationship got better.

Q: Would a relatively inexperienced driver joining the team automatically make you the lead driver? Would you be happy with such a position - and the task of doing most of the development work?

SP: Well, most of the development work for next year is done, so we are talking about the 2017 in-season development. And that, of course, will depend much on the right feedback that the drivers give the engineers as to which points they have to look in the wind tunnel. So what we need is a guy with the right attitude who is willing to work hard. Then we should be fine. And in terms of being the lead driver, I don't think it will change a lot in 2017. From the lead driver you expect that he delivers the most points. At the end of the day that is all that matters in this business. In that aspect nothing changes at all, so I am not concerned about my position at all.

Q: It took you years to be able to give such valuable feedback…

SP: …yes, experience is very important. The more you have the better you can help your team. But the right attitude also can make a difference.

Q: With Force India you and Nico have worked your way towards the front of the grid - and the standings. Everything looks really promising. If you had been asked to join Renault, would you have taken the risk? Perhaps starting from near the back of the grid again?

SP: Well, Renault is a manufacturer team, but going to a new generation of cars I took my decision: I want stability. I want to work with this team longer. I am very happy here. I love this team and I think it is the best position for my future. 

Q: Last year you did pretty well here in Austin, bagging 10 points. Is there any chance of repeating that? 

SP: The reality is that the three top teams are so far ahead of us, so we only can hope that they have problems and we get it one hundred percent right. The aim clearly is to leave Austin still sitting in P4 in the constructors' championship - and me advancing to P7 in the drivers' standings. 

Q: Has today's running indicated that both goals are reachable?

SP: Yes, it was a good Friday afternoon for me, as the morning session was done by our third man Alfonso Celis. I had no issues and if you see where we ended up - Nico in P6 and me in P7, even in front of a Ferrari - then I would say we should achieve our goals. But then again it's only Friday and it will be seen if others still have something up their sleeves for the weekend. Both McLarens looked pretty strong today.  

Q: One week later will be the Mexican Grand Prix - for you the most emotional race of the 2015 season. What are you expecting this year from the fans - and what will you give them in return?

SP: Well, last year I had a really good qualifying and a good race under the circumstances that I had and the fans supported me fantastically. I wish the same this year. I am sure my fans know that I am not sitting in the fastest car, so it will be difficult to aim for a win, or even a podium, but I will give one thousand percent.