Sergio Perez says he was 'very close' to signing with Ferrari for the 2014 F1 season had he not joined McLaren in a brief stint that he says 'damaged his reputation' in the sport.
Perez caught the eye of top teams during two seasons with Sauber, the Mexican notching up three podiums with the mid-field team in 2012 before penning a deal to join Jenson Button in the McLaren-Mercedes team.
However, it would prove to be a frustrating year for Perez as he struggled to match Button initially and though his results improved towards the end of the year, McLaren opted to sign its protégé Kevin Magnussen before the season was out.
Indeed, though Perez doesn't regret the decision to join McLaren given its success prior to 2013, he says being dropped after just one year damaged a reputation he has been working hard to rebuild since joining Force India.
“At that time, McLaren was really winning for a couple of years already, so it was definitely the team to be at and it turned out it wasn't the right team,” he said. “Obviously in hindsight it damaged quite a bit my reputation because when a big team gets rid of you after a year, it really damages your reputation in the sport.
“I really hope my results in the past year and this year [have proven myself]. If I can have strong results, then maybe an opportunity can come in the near future to come back to a top team.”
Furthermore, Perez says the decision to join McLaren in 2013 ultimately scuppered the opportunity to join Ferrari in place of Felipe Massa for 2014, claiming he was 'very close' to joining.
“I was very close. For 2014, I had to stay at Sauber one more year and then go to Ferrari, but then the opportunity with McLaren came.”
Perez is currently 13th in the F1 standings with a best finish of seventh place in Monaco.