Sergio Perez says becoming the first Formula 1 driver to contract coronavirus made him feel like “the most stupid guy on earth”.

Then Racing Point driver Perez was forced to miss both Silverstone rounds early on in the 2020 F1 season when he tested positive for COVID-19 following a trip home to Mexico between races to visit his mother in hospital.

In his first interview with his new Red Bull team ahead of the upcoming 2021 campaign, Perez admitted he went through a particularly difficult time following his positive case and the subsequent criticism he faced.

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"I certainly had a very tough year, I’ll say” Perez said.

"With Corona, being the first driver to get the virus - you know, now it's like a bit more normal that people get it. But at the time it was like, 'you're the most stupid guy on earth because you got the virus.’

"It was very harsh for me to deal with it.”

A total of six drivers have now returned positive tests for COVID-19, with Lance Stroll, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc and most recently Pierre Gasly all catching the virus in the past six months.

At the time, Perez was fighting to secure his place on the grid for this season after Racing Point opted to replace Perez with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel for 2021, leaving the Mexican without a drive.

Perez went on to turn in an outstanding season despite the uncertainty and claimed a remarkable maiden victory on his way to finishing fourth in the championship, before eventaully getting the call from Red Bull to become Max Verstappen’s new teammate.

"It was a very critical time as well in my career, because there was the contract thing,” Perez explained.

"In the end I lost the seat with my team, but it worked out really well. But I never knew what was going to happen.

"When that happened, I was pretty relaxed. I thought, 'well, I've had a tremendous career already and I'm pleased with myself, but I just have to give it all weekend after weekend and see what happens.’

"When the Red Bull opportunity opened up, it was sometimes looking better, sometimes looking worse. But then in the end, it worked out.

"So I think these opportunities, only come once in your life. I know that, and I'm ready to make it work."