Despite losing the points he earned for a stirring drive to seventh place in the Australian Grand Prix, Sergio Perez remains confident that Sauber can be a force for points throughout the 2011.
The Mexican impressed the F1 fraternity by making it to the end of the Melbourne race on just one change of tyres, but was denied the chance to add his name to the list of those to have scored on their F1 debut when the rear wing of his Sauber was found to contravene the rules, the result of a manufacturing error back in Hinwil. While disappointed, however, Perez was happy with the potential of the C30 and, along with team-mate Kamui Kobayashi - who also lost points - is aiming to prove that the wing made little difference to the car's performance - and that he deserves his place on the grid.
"It was a great day for the team, despite what has happened afterwards," he told the official F1 website, "I just remembered what I did during the race, and the final result is just another page of the story. I am just so very happy to have had such a great debut.
"Since my very first F1 press conference, I was labelled as only being here because I pay for my seat, or because my sponsor Telmex pays for it. It is not very nice to hear, as the people that say these things do not know what effort it cost me to get here. Now, having succeeded quite well in my debut race, it feels very good to maybe remind people that I am not
a pay driver.
"Over the winter tests, we said our aim should be to finish within the points, and we did exactly that. Kamui and I had great races, and I think we did the maximum that we could. If we have another weekend like that here in Malaysia, we would be even happier. Every weekend is different and a new opportunity, [but] I would be more than happy if I am able to do the same as I did in Melbourne. But I know that I always want more, so I hope that I can do even better. I have to be realistic and just keep aiming for points here, [but] the car itself, I think, will be even better than in Australia."
Even Perez, however, was surprised by how well he, and the C30, managed to look after the Pirelli tyres, which had been specifically designed to wear quickly.
"At the beginning, I lost a lot of positions, as I was on the prime tyres and the car was heavy with fuel, so I tried to do a very long stint even though I was very slow," he recalled, "After pitting, I went out on the option tyres and that was a very nice surprise for us. I let Sebastian Vettel past because I lost some time, so he was in front of me, but later I was even quicker than him - though, again, I lost some time.
"After he pitted, I was in front of him, and I tried to carry out a controlled race and to manage my tyres. It went really well and we managed to make only one pit-stop, which was a very positive surprise for us. The strategy of having only one pit-stop came during the race, so it was not really planned by us. In the technical and strategy meeting, we were talking about two, or even three stops.
"That was a big surprise, as my idea was to manage the tyres and stop them degrading too much. As soon as you have this degradation it means that you have to pit. After ten laps, it was looking very good, and also after 20 laps. After 30 laps, we said that we might as well finish with that set of tyres, even though I was running out of rubber in the end. And we managed to finish in seventh place."