Sergio Perez may not necessarily look back fondly on his single season with McLaren, but admits that the tough times have helped shape him into the driver he has since become with Force India.
Perez was picked as Lewis Hamilton's replacement at McLaren, and was a somewhat controversial choice with other drivers potentially on the market, but that was nothing compared to the year that he endured as team-mate to Jenson Button. While he held his own against the Briton, McLaren were unknowingly on the verge of the decline that currently sees them trailing all but Manor in the team standings, and Perez was summarily dismissed in favour of rookie Kevin Magnussen ahead of 2014.
“I think my performance there was pretty strong considering the circumstances internally,” the Mexican commented, “We had a very inconsistent car at the beginning, the first ten races I was having to adapt to the team, then the second-half went a lot better.
“When you look at a couple of races, I was very unlucky with tyres, as it was at the time when tyres were blowing up. Other than that, I think my performance was good… good enough to keep the drive and develop within the team because you need time to develop with a team to feel comfortable in an environment. Every team is very different but, unfortunately, I arrived at McLaren at the wrong time.”
While two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso may argue that he has got it worse than anything Perez endured in 2013, the Mexican – who has secured at least one podium finish with every team he has driven for except
McLaren – admitted that it took him a while to overcome the setbacks he suffered.
“Every experience, every result in my career, my McLaren experience… everything has helped me develop as a racing driver,” he confirmed, “However, it took me a while to get my confidence back [after McLaren], to realise how good a driver I am. When something like that happens, you start to doubt yourself a lot.
“I was watching my old races and my podiums at Sauber and thinking 'I can do that', but it took me a while. However, from the second half of the year last year, it has been going very smoothly. I am very happy in myself and enjoying my life. The results are there, so it is just a case of delivering now until the end of the year.”
Force India's season has already been defined by the introduction of the VJM08B, which has transformed its fortunes since the British Grand Prix back in the summer. Perez added to his podium haul with third place in Russia, while the team secured a best-ever fifth place in the constructors' standings last time out in Brazil.
“Fifth in the constructors' championship [was] the priority for us but, next year, we will have to improve on that,” the Mexican concluded, “We have to aim for fourth, but that will be a big ask for us. The gap is very big, so there is still a long way to go.”