Sergio Perez believes his best chance of returning to the F1 podium will come in the two remaining European rounds, but admits that Force India has to take the opportunities that come its way.
The Mexican broke into the top three back in Bahrain, but has endured mixed fortunes since then, admitting that he and the team have let potential podium returns slip through their fingers in the seven races since. Now, with the tracks at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza expected to favour the superior horsepower of the Mercedes-engined cars, Perez insists that they have to take the chance to compete with Red Bull and Williams in pursuit of the dominant works Mercedes team.
“The goal is to maximise every single opportunity,” he emphasised, “I think, in the first part of the season, we missed some big opportunities, whether by luck or reliability issues, so, in this second half, I want to maximise everything to score as many points as possible. That's the target. I think the next two races should be good for us in terms of the engine. We should have a bit of an advantage, so I hope we can make the most of this.
“I think, if we are going to do any podiums, it needs to be in these two races, so we need to give everything. Let's see if we can reach it again. [Team boss] Vijay [Mallya] is right…. I had the opportunity to win the race in Canada and the opportunity to fight for the podium in Austria and I think we should put that pressure into the team because we can do it - we have done it - and hopefully we can do it once again.”
Asked whether he sees Force India being able to maintain its top five position in the constructors' table over the remaining eight rounds, Perez said the goal had to be to remain ahead of McLaren, despite a single point separating the two squads heading to Belgium this weekend.
“I think the [pecking order] will stay more or less the same,” he claimed, “I don't see it changing much, although I think Williams can get Ferrari [in the battle for third place] if they keep the momentum and keep being strong.
“I hope we stay in front of McLaren and why not? We can move forward. We know how the second half can change things, so we must stay ahead of them. In the last couple of races we have been really unlucky – obviously, in the last race, I made a mistake which cost us some points but, otherwise, it has been other factors and there is no reason why we can't stay ahead of them.”
The annual visit to Spa necessarily brings about questions regarding the challenge of Eau Rouge, but Perez believes that the infamous section will be a bigger task for the drivers under F1's new regulations. Unable to accurately simulate the compression and rise that takes the Belgian circuit away from the paddock and out into the forest, Perez reckons Eau Rouge will open some eyes this year.
“I think it will definitely be a corner now,” he said, “In every single series I have done, it was never really a corner but I think now, in F1, it will be, especially as we will arrive around 10km/h quicker than last year with the ERS and turbos. It will definitely
be a corner!”