Q: Checo, Force India had its best season in 2015, with a clear upward trend after the B-spec car was introduced mid-season. Team mate Nico Hulkenberg said that the B-spec is a good platform to build on – and it shows at this test: you did the third best time in your run on Tuesday and Nico was Wednesday' pacesetter. How much of the car is still the 2015 version and how much is new?
Sergio Perez: This now is an evolution from the B-spec as we didn’t see any reason to change the concept, as we believe that with this concept we can be competitive and move forward. There is still a hell of a lot of potential in this car. It was a great decision by the team to stick with this concept and develop around it.
Q: So how much is new from Abu Dhabi?
SP: Actually it is pretty much a different car. Many parts are new. How the flow of the car works, the rear end, and the sidepods – all has been revamped compared to 2015 and makes a huge difference. Even if from the outside it hasn’t overly changed, believe me it has!
Q: What changes can you report when it comes to real track action?
SP: One word: super. I think we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the season when we keep the development curve and unlock the potential that obviously is in the car. On the mechanical side we have changed a lot compared to the past, so I am really looking forward to seeing where we really stand.
Q: Force India had a bit of a reputation for starting slow into the season and ending it on a high. How is it this time? Is the performance that we saw over the last three days real? How ‘political’ are these times?
SP: What do you mean by ‘political’ times?
Q: Some teams in the past have been known to run with very low fuel when they did their fastest laps – all to get media attention or to attract sponsors…
SP: No, no, we didn’t do anything like that. Our times were fair and square! Of course that makes it really difficult to say where we stand, so all I can say is that we are heading in the right direction. Take for example Tuesday: Ferrari first, Red Bull second on the times sheet – both cars on ultrasoft tyres – whereas we ran the supersoft. There you have it.
Q: Can you tell anything about the teams’ development plan? Will the concept that has been carried over from 2015 also carry you through all of 2016 or will there be something of a C-spec in mid-season?
SP: No plans to report so far. Of course our biggest challenge will be that we come from our best season - and of course we don’t want to lose that momentum. We have to move up, and having tasted P5 in the constructors’ standings - and everything that goes with it like respect, reputation and funds - we will work super hard to keep that. The mentality in the team is superb.
Q: You frequently said that you are developing as a driver with every season and feel more and more ready for one of the top teams again – how is that plan proceeding?
SP: I think right now I am in the best moment of my F1 career. I get on with things, I have found stability with the team – and that gives me hope that I keep my curve running north…
Q: …your aim to make a switch to one of the big teams: is it still there?
SP: Definitely. My ultimate target is to become a world champion. I want to have a very strong year - and then let's see what happens.
Q: There are four drivers who are 35 or over and probably nearing the end of their careers: Raikkonen, Button, Alonso and Massa - all of them driving for top teams. On the other andyou are only 26, heading into your sixth season, come with a lot of experience and five podium finishes to your name - is that what you bring to the table and what you are banking on?
SP: Ha, I am not really banking on the retirement plans of others. I had the opportunity before to switch to a top team - and eventually it will come again. History has shown that every year a maximum of one cockpit at a top team becomes available - and they are looking for the best and that has nothing really to do with age. I want to be chosen because they believe in me and not because somebody reaches whatever age. The four guys that you mentioned - yes, some of them are ten years older than me - but they are doing a great job and have plenty of experience, so I see them all a couple of years more in the sport. If you see how fit they are then age is only a number.
Q: Formula One racing is a sport but also part of the entertainment business. We see that only a few of the drivers in top teams have ‘showbiz talents’. Is that something where you could also do a bit more?
SP: Well, Lewis is special! Or Alonso. Yes, I agree with you that a driver should do more than just driving the car because you are also an ambassador for your sport - but at the end of the day only your pace is what really matters. Yes, a certain showmanship could be a valuable add-on for a team or a sponsor - so I will start to work also on that side! Aren’t my new cap and cool sunglasses the first step to a trendier me? (laughs)
Q: You have put laurels on your team mate Nico’s head saying that you count him among the five best drivers on the grid. Where do you see yourself in that scenario?
SP: Ha, tricky! I think that if as a Formula One driver you don’t believe that you are the best, then you should stay home! So I believe I am the best!
Q: So based on that statement, how do you want our season to develop?
SP: Our team target is to step up one position, which means by implication that I also will finish further up the standings. I was ninth last year…