McLaren Media Day: Sergio Perez's first day at the office - Team VVV

News McLaren Media Day: Sergio Perez’s first day at the office


James Allen


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Yesterday, the world's media and the McLaren employees working at the noteworthy Technology Centre greeted the Woking-based outfit's newest recruit on his first day of work as a Macca driver: Sergio Perez.

One of the rising stars in Formula One, having stunned many F1 fans around the world with his impressive drives at Sepang, Montreal and Monza, Perez is certainly one of the biggest prospects on the F1 grid, and his signing by McLaren emulates the moves the team has made in the past when it comes to acquiring promising new talent, such as Alain Prost, Gilles Villeneuve, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Kimi Raikkonen and the driver Perez replaces, Lewis Hamilton.

As a result, Perez understands that he has pretty big boots to fill, as well as – given the fact he was on the cusp of winning at the Malaysian Grand Prix in a mid-field Sauber – pretty high targets to aim for.

Speaking to the press at the McLaren Technology Centre, Perez stated: "When you come to McLaren, you are expected to win because you are in the best team. If you are not winning, there is something wrong, so in that respect I expect more pressure".

In fact, it appears that Perez knows full well that he'll have to forge his own way through his time at McLaren, rather than simply go down in history as 'the guy who replaced Lewis Hamilton'.

"When you are replacing someone at McLaren it has to be a top driver, a very good driver, Even if Lewis was not there, I was going to replace a top driver, so this is quite normal, and my approach has to be to make my own career and my own history at McLaren."

Indeed, it doesn't seem from his inaugural press conference as a McLaren driver that the young Mexican seems to be fazed by these far higher expectations of himself. Indeed, it seems that he feels capable of playing a part in achieving his new team's targets for victory and success.

"When you come into McLaren this has to be your target, otherwise you should not join McLaren because here everybody is working for that goal. So I am coming here to do the same, to work for that goal".

That does mean, though, that Perez will obviously have to alter his approach to driving a McLaren from the tactics and skills he learnt whilst he was learning his craft at Sauber. Not only does he need to improve his levels of fitness – team principal Martin Whitmarsh mentioned last year that Perez was yet to be at the physical level that McLaren demand and expect from their drivers – but he also needs to ensure he's scoring points during every race.

Indeed, whilst Perez remains adamant that the pressure of his looming McLaren career wasn't a contributor to his lack of point-scoring finishes in the six races after the deal was announced (though he does concede that he was at least partly to blame for some), it is obvious that such mistakes and errors will be less tolerable at a top-tier team (as Lotus's Romain Grosjean discovered last season…).

However, even if he can't quite predict where he'll qualify at the season opener at Albert Park in March (Perez not only mentioned that he "didn't quite know" where he'd rank in the Australian Grand Prix, but he also admitted he had "very little input" with the development of the 2013 car), he'll still be aiming for outright victory, applying what he learnt at Sauber to a race-winning scenario

"At Sauber it [race and tyre management strategies] helped me because the approach was to always to try and maximise the race potential, not so much the qualifying. Here the target is to be in pole position and win the race

"In that respect obviously I will try and help with my style, with my understanding of the tyres, but I think the approach has to be different. We need to attack more in qualifying and extract the maximum for the race".

If that's not quite possible, though, then there's always consolation that – as we all found out last year, especially during the closing stages of the season – you don't need a vast tally of wins to be in contention for the title.

When asked whether Fernando Alonso's consistency last year leading to, despite having only three wins to his name, being within four points of being crowned champion was a lesson from which all drivers on the grid can learn from, Perez answered with: "I think the most important thing is to always finish and try to get the maximum result that you can. As you say, Alonso is a great example of what consistency does".

Of course, having a top car and capabilities as a driver aren't the only things that make a race or championship winning driver: a good rapport with the team's race engineers is also a must, especially in this era of Formula One. And not only because this is the first time will he be using a simulator in his F1 career to get acclimatised and help develop and set-up the car.

"I want to understand the car quite a lot in terms of set-up for me to be able to have a good communication with my engineers, and it is a very important part for me to build my relationship with my engineers, with my team and get together so when I get to the first test I have as much familiarisation as possible with the whole team, Then when we get to Melbourne I want to be very well prepared so that everything comes automatically."

And, of course, the best way to get acclimatised to a new car, a new team and a new group of engineers is to get the best possible result from the twelve days the two drivers will have to sure during the test sessions at Jerez in February.

"First of all we have to go through testing to try to do the maximum we can, Jenson and myself, to have a very competitive car and then I think we can do a very good job in Melbourne.”

Thoughts on the McLaren Media Day

Unfortunately, we can't quite comment on the press conference that was held at the McLaren Technology Centre, as we weren't invited to attend the event (even though we were there to attend the launch of the McLaren MP4-12C supercar a few years ago…)

We can, though, comment on Perez's answers and responses to the questions he was asked by the world's news agencies and motorsport media, and – whilst we can't deduce anything solid about his prospects on the track in a McLaren, for blindingly obvious reasons – there is the likelihood that Sergio will grow monumentally as a driver during his tenure at McLaren.

His answers and responses – particularly the ones regarding his status in the McLaren pecking order (especially alongside the new 'team leader' that is Jenson Button), his approach to Grand Prix’s and what is expected of him as a McLaren driver – were quite open and honest; almost reflective in some cases.

Indeed, whilst his on-air pieces that were being filmed and broadcasted live on the Internet were quick to praise his new team, the answers that were being jotted down by the press show a man who knows how much pressure he now has to deal with, now he's firmly in the limelight of the F1 media, and knows he really has to push in order to get the best out of himself, and bring home the points and accolades that the outfit continuously craves for.

Whether Perez can deliver at McLaren, though, remains to be seen: he may have shown himself to be a tremendous talent behind the wheel of his Sauber, there's no guarantee that – especially with Button as the new point of reference he'll be measured against – he'll be able to stun us as he did last year, and we'll only get a glimpse of what he's capable of in (we assume) one of the fastest cars on the grid next month at the Jerez tests at the very earliest.

For now, though, we'll be optimistic. Not only were his drives last year promising for McLaren's prospects of outright victory in the 2013 season, but the answers he gave during the Media Day were also ones that suggest Perez will be a mighty fine asset for McLaren in the years to come.

And, if Perez does end up unleashing and realising the potential that Martin Whitmarsh saw in the young driver last year, perhaps we'll see his silver McLaren race cars sitting pride of place in the McLaren Technology Centre atrium, should we ever get the chance to visit the facility again…

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