Sauber rookie Sergio Pérez has conceded that had he not been given the opportunity to join the top flight in 2011, then his chance would likely have 'slipped away' – but just over two months from his grand prix debut in the Bahrain curtain-raiser, he insists it is an opportunity that he has fully earned.
Pérez will join 2010 rookie of the year Kamui Kobayashi in one of the most inexperienced but arguably also most exciting driver line-ups in the field for the forthcoming campaign – and the former British F3 Series front-runner has acknowledged that a mid-season push to raise his game last year was pivotal to his success in clinching the available Sauber cockpit.
Explaining that a third consecutive year in the feeder GP2 Series 'would have made it difficult' to subsequently graduate to F1, the under-pressure Pérez went on to produce an impressive spurt from Silverstone onwards, tallying four victories from the final eleven outings to conclude proceedings as runner-up to new Williams recruit Pastor Maldonado in the title standings.
“Halfway through [the year], the negotiations with the F1 teams began,” the young Mexican told Spanish website motor21.com
. “I was fourth or fifth [in GP2], and at this time [Telmex CEO and Pérez's backer] Carlos Slim was clear with me. He told me that if I was not in the fight for the championship, then I would not be in the minds of the teams and my chance was going to slip away. I think this was my last chance to enter F1.”
Pérez went for a seat-fitting at Hinwil for next year's Ferrari-powered Sauber C30 just prior to Christmas, and he has been quick to dismiss suggestions that he secured the drive more by dint of the financial sponsorship he is able to bring to the Swiss outfit than his talent behind the wheel.
“F1 is a world of big money,” the 20-year-old mused. “We have noticed that there was a lot of interest with the business opportunities in Mexico, and for sure it didn't hurt me – but I have proved that I am a good driver. Nobody has given me anything.”