McLaren team boss Sergio Perez insists that Sergio Perez is 'working in a positive direction' and showing why the Woking-based team chose him as its replacement for Lewis Hamilton.

After a difficult start to the campaign, Perez picked up his first top six finish in Bahrain and then out-qualified team-mate Jenson Button for the first time in Spain last time out.

With three top ten finishes to his name so far, the Mexican sits just five points behind Button in the standings and while neither has been able to challenge at the front as McLaren deals with a raft of issues with the MP4-28, Whitmarsh insisted that Perez was doing what was expected of him.

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"Checo is showing the intelligence that we saw in him before," he told members of the press during the latest Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "He has natural pace, he's growing in confidence and he's still learning. He's more than a decade behind Jenson in terms of experience and you can't acquire that knowledge bank overnight, but I think he's working in a positive direction and is a good team player.

"We're really blessed with both drivers because through the difficult times we've had so far this year they've been incredibly supportive and positive, working hard together and motivating the team. I'm grateful for that and pleased with both of them. We're very happy with our driver line-up. If we give them a better car - as we aim to - I'm sure we'll have some better results."

Whitmarsh added that the last two races had a been a sign of Perez's growing confidence as he deals with stepping into a top-line F1 team for the first time after two years with Sauber.

"There's been an enormous amount of pressure," he said. "He didn't make any mistakes in the early races, but then I think he was very conscious not to make mistakes.

"I sense now that he's stepped it up - in the race before last he outraced Jenson and I think that was good for his confidence, even though it wasn't always good for my heart watching! His qualifying performance in Q2 in Spain was him stepping it up again, and that's what he has to do.

"Jenson is a tremendous benchmark - he's the ultimate professional and has more than a decade more experience than Checo. To come into a team with all those pressures and a comparative lack of experience, if you're going to be a star of the future, you've got to beat your team-mate. He's getting stuck into that now."