Sergio Perez has admitted that no amount of preparation away from the circuit over the winter could have prepared him for the moment he first ventured out in a McLaren.
The Mexican, signed to replace the Mercedes-bound Lewis Hamilton
ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix last October, was made to wait an extra day before getting his hands on the new MP4-28 he helped to unveil in Woking, as Jenson Button
was given the honour of giving the car its maiden run, but eventually got behind the wheel as the Jerez
group test rolled into its second session.
“Oh boy, it was exciting!” he told the official F1 website, “I have done a lot of simulator work lately, but this here - nothing can beat it!
“There are many differences [to last year's Sauber]: the steering wheel, the pedals, the view out of the cockpit, the way you approach corners - it's like moving into a new office and it is a process to get adapted to all these novelties. I still need to sort out some things with my seat and the cockpit to get more comfortable [so], in some ways, you could almost call it a start from zero. It's fair to say that this adaptation is not so easy, so I am even more satisfied that the day went so well. I am sure you all see that smile on my face!”
Day one on track was very much about getting acclimatised, and Perez was never in a position to chase the benchmark time set by Button on Tuesday. The Mexican wound up seventh on the timesheets, having lapped just under a second off his team-mate's earlier pace, but was happy with what he had achieved.
“I was able to do a really big programme - different set-up balance, trying to understand the car even if the degradation is so big,” he revealed, “You can only do one lap on low fuel, so it's a bit tricky to get the feel for the car. But, overall, I think we did a good job today.”
With Button back in the cockpit on day three of the test, Perez will have to wait until Friday before being able to build on his initial experience but, ever confident, he feels that he will have more than enough time to get up to speed before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
“I know that we have a good car, now it is on us to work on it, to do our job,” he commented, “How competitive are we? I don't know. Nobody puts his cards on the table at tests. Everybody runs his own programme and analyses the data, so it is not about speed, but about getting the answers to the questions that you had.
“Sure, the pressure is there and the team expects a lot from me, but that is what happens if you step up a level. I have five days more until the Melbourne race. That doesn't sound too much, but if we continue to do our job as we've done today, we'll be prepared in Australia.”