2020 was a rollercoaster of emotions for Sergio Perez. The Mexican tested positive for COVID-19 and then got dropped by Racing Point/Aston Martin for Sebastian Vettel.
However, Checo didn’t give up and took a sensational maiden victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix to top off his greatest season in Formula One. He finished 4th in the Drivers’ Championship and Red Bull couldn’t turn down the opportunity to employ him for the 2021 season.
In his first interview with his new team at the factory, the 30-year-old says he can’t wait to get started with Red Bull.
‘’It felt great,’’ said Perez when asked how he felt when Red Bull called him to confirm he was replacing Albon. ‘’I was waiting all my career to get an opportunity with a top team; it finally came. I think it came at the right moment for me. I’m so looking forward to make it work, to work with the engineers and Max to push the team forward. It’s a great challenge for me and can’t wait to get on track with the team.’’
Perez admits he feels like a dog finding a new family after seven seasons at Force India/Racing Point, but adds he’s starting to feel comfortable inside the team.
‘’It’s amazing to be part of the Red Bull family. When you come here you realise straightaway why they’ve been successful, the amount of infrastructure they have and the very capable people they have. I can’t wait to get on track with my group of people.
‘’Obviously, I’ve been seven years with a team, so it feels a bit different. It’s like a dog finding a new family, being with a family for seven years and you are used to them and all of a sudden you are changing.
‘’But I’m starting to feel very comfortable here. It’s a fantastic team, very united and I can see there’s a lot of fun ahead of us.’’
“It’s just a dream come true working with Adrian [Newey], with the amount of engineers. And the level of engineering inside this team is very impressive.”
The Mexican says he’s already been sharing ideas with his new team as they look to close the gap to the all-conquering Mercedes team in 2021.
“I've been in the sport in different teams in different eras. I think I know what I need from myself, but I also feel that I can push the team forwards in certain areas, just by talking to the team.
“I think we know the direction. Obviously I have to wait and drive the car, but there's already some good ideas that we've been sharing with the team, that hopefully can bring some performance on track.”
It’ll be a formidable task for Perez this year. As well as joining a new team, his teammate will be Max Verstappen. The Dutchman blew away Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon across 2019 and 2020; Checo is well aware of the challenge ahead.
“It's a big challenge for myself, you know,” he said. “We all know Max, how talented, how fast, how much he has grown in the past years, how complete he is by now. So he's definitely one of the best and one of the fastest, if not the fastest out there in the current grid.
“So, yeah, it's a massive challenge in a way. He's been here a long time, he knows what he needs from the car. But it's a great challenge and I look forward to work with him and push together forwards [for] the team.”
Perez has already spent time with his engineers and managed to put in a couple of days on the Red Bull simulator as he tries to get up to speed as quickly as possible ahead of his Red Bull debut in Bahrain.
“It’s very different in the way it’s a new team, there’s so many things you have to learn. It just takes a bit of time. I will just get better and better knowing the team [and] the team understanding what I need.
“[I am] speeding up the process, putting that work into the pre-season. I’ve already spent a good amount of time with my engineers. That’s the key to try to speed up the process.
“I’ve driven a couple of days on the sim already. I have a good idea of what the Red Bull car is like. It’s already in the back of my head, the car, but we are in that time where nothing comes easy.
“You have to really learn and work to get up to speed with the car.
“It’s getting there and it’s going to be very limited testing, with only a day and a half. It’s very little but it’s what it is, it’s the same for everybody.
“There’s a lot of drivers changing teams, so it will be nice to see who adapts fastest to a new team.”
Perez is very hungry to achieve more after his first win at the Sakhir Grand Prix and is determined to make sure he overdelivers for the team as they seek their first championships since 2013. He also freely admits this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It’s a moment for me to prove it to myself that I can take the next step. Now I seem to have the machinery in my hands.
“These opportunities only come once in your life. I know that and I’m ready to make it work.
“I am always pushing to the maximum and last year I finally had a car that I could show a bit more and people saw what I am capable of, but now is my big opportunity,”
“I have to go onto the next step in all aspects and I think I’m ready for it. The only thing I was lacking was the opportunity.
“Now I have it, it’s up to me to make it work. I’m going to make sure I overdeliver. If we have a car that can win the championship, I’ll make sure we win it. And if not, and we only have a car that’s good enough for third, I will make sure that we finish second.
“I hope we’re going to have a really good season and it’s the only way I can replay Mr [Dietrich] Mateschitz, Dr [Helmut] Marko, Christian [Horner], Adrian [Newey] and all the team.
“Nobody before has given me the chance to be in a big team. We’re going to hear the Mexican national anthem many times next year I hope.”
👋👋👋 ¡Hola! Listos para arrancar esta gran aventura. 💪💪 https://t.co/nFixb34azv— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) January 19, 2021