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Exclusive Sergio Perez Q&A: Top teams a factor in 2017 decisions

16 Sep 2016

Sergio Perez is a wanted man in F1 - and little wonder given his superb run of form so far in 2016. Officially the Mexican's future remains open - but while he is happy to drop clues as to which team he will be racing with, he admits any decision will also be made with an eye on securing a switch to a top team in 2018 or beyond...

Q: Checo, in Monza you said that you wanted to have your F1 future sorted out before Singapore - but since then there has only been rumours, and nothing official...

Sergio Perez: Yes, actually that was my plan. But in life you don't always get what you want - and in Formula One in particular! (Laughs) No real news yet, but closing in. So let's postpone it - before the next race in Malaysia! Then I should be in a position to announce my future, even though I have the impression that it is already all over town. But I am a suspicious person: nothing is finalised until the ink is dry on the contract.

Q: Your current team principal Vijay Mallya wants you to stay - but Claire Williams also said that you could be a good fit for Williams. What do you see as the benefits of each team?

SP: First and foremost I am very proud to be part of Force India. What we've achieved in the past three years has been amazing, so I fully believe in the prospects of this team. I am very happy here and it's no secret that I want to continue my career with this team. Speaking of Williams, I do appreciate their interest. I don't know that team well, but they had plenty of success in the past. I am somewhat flattered that they considered me.

Q: What criteria do you look at when choosing a team? Money, team principal, team mate, engineers - what? 

SP: You always consider everything. It's your career and you wouldn't want to tamper with it. You also have to draw a scenario for the future and not only think short term for the next one or two years. Stability is important. So you better have all that on your radar before putting your name to a contract.

Q: From those things mentioned above, which could you most easily go without?

SP: Let's have a look first at what I couldn't live without: good people in the team. People make the success. You spend a lot of time together, so the chemistry better fit. Probably the last thing on my 'important list' would be money. Money you can somehow manage to work around.

Q: How much influence do your backers have on that decision?

SP: I have good influence on making my own fate, because at the end of the day I am the one sitting in the car. But I am lucky to have so much support from my sponsors, so actually we do decide together what deal can be done.

Q: You just mentioned continuity. Is that something that's important to you? 

SP: Yes, I am the 'continuity guy'. I don't like to jump cockpits every second year. I had that in the past - I was pretty much forced to - so thanks, but no thanks! (Laughs) I like to build the team around me and have success together.

Q: In any case it will be a midfield team… 

SP: Well, that's not rocket science to work out that it will be a midfield team, as all the top teams have no availability...

Q: …but where does that leave your ambitions?

SP: I want to move myself into a position to step up in the future should a top seat become available - to be on their radar.

Q: A Formula One career is a very fragile thing. What are the three biggest dangers to that career?

SP: Losing ground - that for sure is number one. Not enjoying what you do. And not having success. These three things I'm pretty sure cut your career short.

Q: After Belgium Force India were fourth in the standings - after Italy you were back in P5 again. At Spa the team bagged 22 points, but in Monza only five. Can you explain that drop?

SP: Force India has made the most out if its chances so far. In Monza we again made the most of them - but there the most was five points. There was no way we could have had it any better. Probably if Nico (Hulkenberg) had been a bit luckier he could probably have fought Felipe Massa a bit harder. But at the end of the day I beat one of the Williams cars and they were a lot faster there. So my guess is that with Williams and us it will be a fight for P4 for the rest of the season - and I would not mind having the last say in Abu Dhabi!

Q: For many pundits you and Nico are one of the best driver pairings - but unfortunately not sitting in a winning car. Is that what glues you together: the same situation? 

SP: Unfortunately yes. And we both know that it is all about being patient and making the most of what we have right now – and we do! 

Q: What is it that you appreciate about Nico? Is it the happy 'driver marriage'?

SP: I wouldn't say it is a 'happy marriage' - it is more about respect. We get along well and push each other very hard. It's good for both of us to have that healthy competition. You can never rest for a moment. But the most important thing is the human side: in the three years we've been together now we've never had any issues that turned nasty.

Q: And what does he appreciate about you, do you think?

SP: When he beats me - that is what he appreciates a lot! (Laughs)

Q: You have always finished in the points in Singapore and seem to get better each year here. What does Singapore mean to you? Are you a 'street track' kind of driver? You also say that Monaco is your favourite circuit, and you finished on the podium in Baku...

SP: I love Singapore. I love the streets. I love the streets of every city circuit. But, indeed, Singapore stands out. It is mentally and physically so tense that it brings you to your limit. That feels awesome. And that my curve here is going upwards tells me that I am able to master that challenge better with every year. On all these three tracks a driver really makes a difference.

Q: Speaking of challenges, how have you prepared for Singapore's extreme heat and humidity?

SP: I have trained in a steam room - like most of my colleagues.

Q: And did it help today?

SP: Well, I personally felt super fit in the car in both sessions. We tried quite a number of things with the balance, so what you see in the standings doesn't reflect where we really are. It was a typical Friday when you try to find the best possible set-up for Sunday. When you look at the times and see that Vettel in P5 is one second away from Rosberg in P1 - then you know that there was a lot of fact-finding going on today. That's what we also did.   

Q: You sound pretty upbeat for Sunday. Will it be a strong result for Force India?

SP: I think we will be competitive. Yes, Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes definitely will be ahead - but then it could be us. It is a long race and you have to be patient, to be there when an opportunity arises. There will always be a safety car, so it's all about using your brains to use such a situation to your advantage. I definitely want to move up my result level here again!