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'I'm at the top of my game' - Sergio Perez Q&A

02 Jun 2016

After finishing last season a career-best ninth in the drivers’ standings, Sergio Perez had a disappointing start to 2016, failing to score in the first three races. However, the Mexican has been on something of a charge of late, culminating in a brilliant podium and Driver of the Day double in Monaco. We spoke exclusively to Perez about the race in the Principality, Force India’s recent upsurge in form and the prospect of one day racing for a ‘top team’ again…

Q: Checo, you had a bit of a slow start into the season, but since Russia it has seemed to pick up. And Monaco was definitely the high point of that development! What's been so different since Russia?

Sergio Perez: Let's stick with Monaco for a moment: it was fantastic! At my first attempt to tame that track with an F1 car in 2011 it almost cost my life – and now 2016 I was on the podium! I always knew that I had unfinished business with this circuit. But let's get back to what has changed since Russia: there is more to it than only getting lucky since Sochi. I had a good start all along – but I was pretty unlucky at the first three races. When you take the pace of our car we pretty much need everything to go perfect to get into the points and already a little irritation can ruin that. The last three weekends were simply going smoother – there you have it. In Russia I had a better result, then Spain was more than the maximum we could pull off – and now Monaco, where in a difficult and messy race everything worked perfectly for me. That is a pretty steep curve. And luck stayed with me – finally! (laughs)

Q: Indeed you seem to be on an opposite 'luck-cycle' than your team mate Nico (Hulkenberg) who was shining at the season opener in Australia – but since then has only scored eight points...

SP: ...even in Australia I was qualifying better than him! Then the issues started. Only since Russia have I been able to maximise the potential in terms of results. I am super happy with my progress.

Q: Nico indicated that Force India was out-developed over the winter. Is that also your impression? Did the upgrades from Barcelona fully deliver?

SP: Well, Barcelona was not the true picture of where we are. We had problems but still finished in P7, so my guess is that it could get much better – that in reality we are much more competitive. And to answer the question: yes, the upgrade does work superbly.

Q: What about anything new on the car in Monaco? To explain that performance boost...

SP: Nothing really new - only the Monaco spec. But there we got it dead right with the set-up!

Q: Is there something more to come in the near future? Last year's Silverstone upgrade carried you superbly to the end of the season and made the team finish in P5 – a position you regained again in Monaco...

SP: Silverstone will again see something bigger. Of course we all hope that it will be such a boost like in 2015 – and that we probably could be so bold to look at P4!

Q: The spirit and chemistry at Force India has always been good. If you have to name one thing that is lacking, what would that be?

SP: Money! As simple as that. We have such a super team – and if you see how we finished in Monaco we are definitely on the jump to be the fourth power on the grid. More development money would make things much easier.

Q: You are in your sixth season, and you're still only 26 - and yet you also have to witness an 18 year-old [Max Verstappen] taking victory. Is that frustrating?

SP: Not frustrating. Max is a very good driver and I am happy for him. But what it means is that you have to be in the right car! In my six years now in F1 I haven't had that. I am proud of what I have achieved with the tools that I've got in the past – I think my podium finishes speak for themselves. That is how my career should be measured. I am at the top of my game right at the moment. I have improved a lot as a driver since I came into Formula One and I hope that one day I will be able to lay my hands on a competitive car to show what I can do. If Max hadn't had the opportunity – first his 'schooling' at Toro Rosso and now his chance at Red Bull Racing - he wouldn't have won!

Q: You just said that you have improved a lot as a driver. In what areas?

SP: In qualifying. My race pace and how I look after the tyres has also improved. Actually in all aspects of racing! But the biggest single factor compared to last season is my much better qualifying performance. 

Q: The Verstappen switch has kicked off the driver market. Now we hear the rumour that Nico Rosberg is possibly negotiating with Ferrari as well as Mercedes. Do you have a firm eye on options for yourself? It is no secret that you want to land a seat at a front-running team...

SP: Of course you watch things very carefully – and also look into the rumours! And of course you let any big team know that you are available. The best way to do it is delivering good results - and that I am doing. So if an opportunity comes – I am open!

Q: Big teams hardly knock at thew doors of drivers racing in midfield teams; it is usually the other way round. So what will you do?

SP: Well, if you don't show good results you can knock a hundred times at those doors and there is never somebody at home – so results first! That Monaco podium came at just the right time and the right place! (laughs)

Q: What does it do to a driver's career if you are sacked and your successor wins in your car? Your McLaren departure was also pretty abrupt so you probably can imagine Daniil Kvyat's state of mind...

SP: I can understand very well. You lose a lot of motivation and self-confidence. You fear that your career is over before it has even started properly. But then you pick your remains up again and you start to appreciate things much more – as also in my case everything happened so fast and I was very young. You also get relaxed much more. I think Fernando (Alonso) is a good example about being more relaxed. Nobody sacked him but the fact is he was racing at the front many years – and now suddenly the midfield is the most that's possible. Yes, you suffer as a driver, but you also get more relaxed about it. So I wait! I want to be in a top team – no actually I want to be in a top car. I have been in a top team but they didn't have a top car...

Q: You always said that Monaco is one of your favourite tracks and last weekend this track paid the affection back massively. What about Montreal in two weeks' time? You had a podium finish there, but have also had some races where you didn't make it into the points. Will you use Monaco as a boost?

SP: Of course you go into a race weekend with a much better feeling if the one you just came from was a success. Montreal is a tricky track and I agree that my yield there is not really satisfying. But the car is performing superbly, the balance is there, and we have demonstrated in Monaco that we can do well come rain or shine – and that can also happen in Canada. So we are ready!