Sergio Perez admits that McLaren might be taking a risk in signing him to replace the Mercedes-bound Lewis Hamilton, but insists that he can be a championship contender from his first season with the team.
Having been denied a seat alongside Fernando Alonso at Ferrari for 2013, the Mexican was snapped up by McLaren when it became apparent that Hamilton would not be re-signing, but his form has dipped alarmingly since the announcement of his deal was made after the Singapore Grand Prix. Two retirements and two non-scores have been Perez's results in the four races since Marina Bay in late September, prompting the naysayers to suggest that perhaps Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo was right to judge that he needed more time to mature.
Perez, however, thinks differently, claiming that the negative views have irked him somewhat, and insisting that he is capable of giving 2013 team-mate Jenson Button - and the other expected frontrunners - a run for their money.
"It really gets me frustrated sometimes, not because of what they say about me, but for my team and my mechanics when people create this story that I am focused on McLaren now," he told Sky Sports
, "That is not true. I will always give 100 per cent for whatever team I drive for.
"Of course, there is no guarantee I will be a Lewis Hamilton or some of those guys, [but] I think I am in a great team. I like my new boss and I like the people there, so I think we will be very strong. The people are working very hard and I expect it will be a good car - a good enough car to be contending for the title. I think, when you go to McLaren, the target is to win the title - not to win races or to learn. I have a lot to learn but, at the same time, I have to be champion for the team as it is the best team and, if we have a strong car, that has to be the target for us. I think [Button] will be very strong as he is one of the best drivers out there, so it will not be easy, but my target is to beat him - and beat all the other drivers as well."
On the eve of what will be the closest grand prix to his homeland - at least until Circuit of the Americas founder Tavo Hellmund has his way in resurrecting a Mexican race - Perez admits that he regrets not having been able to take Sauber to the top step of the podium.
"Of course I would be a bit frustrated about not winning but, in the end, it is just a process and you always want more," he conceded, having secured three podium finishes for the Swiss team, including a brace of thrilling second places, "I hope a win comes in the next two races but, if not, I think I have given quite a lot to them and they have given a lot to me. In fact, they have given more to me."
Perez heads into the Austin race holding down tenth place in the drivers' standings, but is 24 points adrift of Lotus' Romain Grosjean, suggesting that an improvement in position is unlikely without two stellar results in the final rounds. His tenth spot could also be under threat from closer to home, as Sauber team-mate Kamui Kobayashi is just eight points back, having added sixth in Abu Dhabi to his own 2012 podium, secured on home ground in Japan four races ago.