Exclusive Q&A with Sauber's Sergio Perez

21 Apr 2012

Sauber’s Sergio Perez is making serious waves in the paddock at the moment. Although luck deserted him in China last weekend, his excellent performances at the opening three rounds have garnered a lot of attention. Perez himself, however, is determined to not get too carried away. He discusses his season to date and his hopes for the Sakhir race…

Q: Sergio, your season so far looks like a fantastic fairy tale with the occasional interference from a wicked ‘stepmother’ at times. In China you were leading the race for a bit but you eventually finished in P11. What happened?

Sergio Perez: Well, that is told in a trice. I had a very good first stint and it was looking really great but then I had a problem with the front wing, which cost me a lot of downforce and from then on my race was finished. I had a lot of degradation on the front from that point on. So instead of fighting for the podium or the top five I ended up in P11. With the tight grid that we have this year it is possible to finish in the points but also very easy to be downgraded to beyond P10.

Q: How did it feel to lead a Formula One race for the first time?

SP: In China I knew that I was going to pit very soon so I was aware that my lead was a short blessing. But believe me when I say that I enjoyed that lead. In Malaysia the situation was much more realistic. I really could have won there.

Q: Why did you do so well in Malaysia? What was your secret?

SP: There is no big secret. We had good pace and the strategy worked very well, and on top of that the conditions worked in our favour. So there’s no secret.

Q: The experts in the paddock say you are something of a tyre whisperer? What do you do differently?

SP: I think it is simply down to conditions. Sometimes it works very well for me and other times it doesn’t. I always try to adapt my driving style to the prevailing circumstances. Obviously I get it right at times and make the tyres last longer and keep a good pace. It doesn’t help to save the tyres by going slowly. It’s true that tyres are a real challenge this season but I would say they are easier to handle in the race as you can watch how they are behaving. But of course should you have a problem then the game is over and it is high time to pit.

Q: You very often manage to do two stops when all the others opt for three. Was that your undoing in China?

SP: No, even if I had thought so after the race. After we did the data analysis we found out that we had a problem with the front wing which caused us to lose a lot of downforce. So it had nothing to do with strategy. Very likely, under normal circumstances, the two-stop strategy would have worked. But not with the front wing issue. We have guessed that the problem came from the rubber that was on the track.

Q: Whatever your result was in China your performance this season has raised many eyebrows. Many think you’d be would be better off at Ferrari. What do you think?

SP: At the moment there is a lot of speculation and I permanently get asked when I am going to head for a bigger team. But I am very realistic. Every weekend is different as you are only as good as your last result. Hero to zero happens here much faster than in other environments. There is still a long championship to go and we have a very competitive car to fight for points. So let’s see what the next few months bring.

Q: You must be targeting a top team once your apprenticeship is over?

SP: You never stop learning. But on the other hand I also feel ready for it now. I think every driver on the grid feels that so it is a question of making it happen. I feel ready to fight with anyone if I have to car that lets me.

Q: It seems though that grid positions do not really matter so much anymore. So what can you do from P8 in Bahrain?

SP: The target clearly is to bag points. I expect a very tricky race with some serious surprises. I don’t know what kind of surprises but I predict a crazy race. The degradation is very high, although that might change tomorrow. But at the moment I am preparing for a chaotic race - a bit like in China.

Q: What is more crucial in the race tomorrow - managing your tyres or the wind?

SP: Clearly the tyres. The wind is the same for everybody so it doesn’t affect the performance of a single driver. But should I manage these two handicaps and we have a good strategy then our aim is to finish in the top five or six. That would be a satisfying result for me.

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