New Red Bull driver Sergio Perez has revealed what he feels he can bring to Red Bull Racing ahead of the 2021 FIA Formula One World Championship season when he will partner with Dutchman Max Verstappen to try and take both titles away from Mercedes.
The Mexican made his F1 debut in 2011 for Sauber and claimed three podiums before going on to drive for McLaren and Force India/Racing Point, where he secured seven podiums in seven seasons including his emotional maiden victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain.
His 2020 displays behind the wheel were even more impressive considering he was the first driver to battle through COVID-19 and they were good enough to land him an initial one-year contract in place of Alex Albon, who stays with the team as a test and reserve driver.
Here is what the 30-year-old from Guadalajara had to say about the task ahead:
1) How did it feel when you got the phone call confirming you had secured the seat?
It felt great. I was waiting all my career to get an opportunity with a top team. It finally came and I think it came at the right moment for me. So much looking forward to make it work with the engineers and with Max to push the team forward. It’s a great challenge and I can’t wait to get on track with the team.
2) What are your initial impressions of the team and factory?
It’s amazing to be part of the Red Bull family. When you come here you realise straight away why they’ve been so successful. The amount of infrastructure they have, development and people. The organisation is tremendously high. Obviously, I’ve been seven years with a team, so it feels a bit different. It’s like a dog finding a new family. I can see there is a lot of fun ahead of us. It’s just a dream come true working with Adrian (Newey). The amount of engineers and the level of engineering inside this team is very impressive.
3) What do you feel you can bring to the team?
I think I can bring a lot of experience, knowledge. I’ve been in different teams, in different eras and I think I know what I need from myself, but I feel I can push the team forward in certain areas, just by talking to the team. I think we know the direction. There is already some good ideas that we’ve been sharing with the team that hopefully we can bring some performance on track.
4) Do you think your first win last year was a turning point for you getting this seat?
I think it definitely gave a bit of influence. I’ve been in the sport for 10 years and people know what I can do. It’s obviously a new challenge, a new opportunity so it’s a moment for me to prove it to myself that I can take it to the next step. I seem to have the machinery in my hands, so I have to make sure I make it work. Last year, I had a better package so I was able to show it more.
5) How will it feel walking on to the grid in Red Bull colours for the first time?
I still don’t believe that I’m here to be honest. When I put the Red Bull branding on myself, it’s like, ‘Wow’. It’s something I never really considered as an option, not being part of the Red Bull programme at a young age. It’s a dream come true. It’s amazing.
6) What are your thoughts on racing alongside Max this season?
It’s a big challenge for myself. We all know Max – how talented, how fast, how much he has grown in the past years and how complete he is now. He is definitely one of the best and one of the fastest, if not the fastest out there in the car on grid. It’s a massive challenge. In a way he’s been here a long time, he knows what he needs from the car and I look forward to work with him and push together forward as a team.
7) What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
To see how competitive we are able to be. We have to close the gap to Mercedes and hopefully beat them with both cars regularly. Give them a big challenge and hopefully a better spectacle. I’ve heard from the engineers they’ve been working really hard this winter.
8) How are you approaching this new challenge?
There are so many things you have to learn and it just takes a bit of time. I’ve done a couple of days on the simulator already. I have a good idea of what the Red Bull car is like. It’s going to be very limited testing this year, but it’s the same for everybody. There are a lot of drivers changing teams, so it will be nice to see who laps the fastest in their new team.
9) 2020 was the worst and best year of your career, so has that made you stronger and more determined?
I certainly had a very tough year being the first driver to get the virus. It was very harsh for me to deal with it. It was a very critical time as well in my career because there was the contract thing. In the end I lost the seat with my team, but it worked out really well.
10) You gave Mexico its first F1 victory in 50 years and fans started a campaign to keep you in F1. How does it feel to have so much support from the Mexican people?
It was very, very special. I was aware of that campaign. I’ve given everything to that team and I wasn’t expecting that, but I got all the support from my fans, my people in Mexico and it was certainly something that kept me motivated. I cannot wait to drive a Red Bull in the Mexican Grand Prix. It’s going to be tremendous and I’m sure there are lots of Mexicans that love Red Bull now.
11) How do you feel about the season opener being moved to Bahrain?
I think it is not a bad thing, given how cold it can be in Europe at this time. I think it’s a good reference to get up to speed a bit more, because we will do the test and then the race there.
12) Are you looking forward to working with Honda?
I am so much looking forward to working with all of them, all the engineers. I’m aware of the amount of pushing they’re doing for this final season. We definitely want all of the Red Bull family to leave them on top and give them that championship. We will give them everything for it and have a great season together.