Sergio Pérez says it feels great to be a part of a front running team, with the Mexican having joined Red Bull Racing for the 2021 Formula 1 season.
Pérez was released from his contract with the BWT Racing Point Formula One Team midway through the 2020 season as they opted to sign Sebastian Vettel in his place, and for a long time, it appeared the talented Mexican would drop off the grid.
However, his consistency showed through, and his victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix persuaded Red Bull bosses to take the opportunity for Pérez to replace Alexander Albon for the upcoming season.
“It felt great,” said Pérez. “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.
“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.
“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.”
‘Massive Challenge’ to go up Against Verstappen
Pérez says it is going to be a challenge being team-mate to Max Verstappen, who has been with the team since early 2016, but he is keen to work alongside the Dutchman to push the team forward.
“So much looking forward to make it work with the engineers and with Max to push the team forward,” said the Mexican. “It’s a great challenge and I can’t wait to get on track with the team.
“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.
“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 are already some good ideas that we’ve been sharing with the team that hopefully we can bring some performance on track.”
Pérez believes his win in the Sakhir Grand Prix was the turning point that influenced Red Bull’s decision to hire him in place of Albon, with the Thai driver dropping down to reserve driver for this season.
However, he felt Racing Point’s better package throughout 2020 gave the Mexican a chance to prove just what he was capable of.
“I think it definitely gave a bit of influence,” he said. “I’ve been in the sport for ten 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.”
“We have to close the gap to Mercedes”
Pérez is looking forward to seeing just how competitive Red Bull are in 2021 as they bid to end the domination in Formula 1 of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
Mercedes has won the past seven World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, and Pérez is eager to put an end to that run.
His new team-mate Verstappen has often been the only Red Bull driver in the past couple of years to be able to challenge Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas up front, and Pérez says to beat them, it is important to have both cars fighting with both Mercedes’.
“We have to close the gap to Mercedes and hopefully beat them with both cars regularly,” said the Mexican. “Give them a big challenge and hopefully a better spectacle. I’ve heard from the engineers they’ve been working really hard this winter.
“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.”
The Mexican says he is also looking forward to working alongside Honda engineers in their final season in Formula 1 before the Japanese engine manufacturer withdraws from the sport to focus on other commitments.
“I am so much looking forward to working with all of them, all the engineers,” said Pérez. “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.”
“I cannot wait to drive a Red Bull in the Mexican Grand Prix”
Looking back at his 2020 campaign, he admitted it was a tough campaign, even if he was able to take his maiden win and another podium place as he took fourth place in the Drivers’ Championship.
He missed two races – the British and 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone – after contracting coronavirus but hit back to have an extremely consistent season that saw him only fail to score points twice, both through mechanical problems.
“I certainly had a very tough year being the first driver to get the virus,” said the Mexican. “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.”
Pérez says he is grateful for all of the support back in his homeland, with many fans starting a campaign to keep him in Formula 1 beyond 2020.
“It was very, very special. I was aware of that campaign,” he said. “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.”