Having recently agreed a deal that will see him contest a sixth season with what was Force India but has yet to be given a new name, Sergio Perez, while delighted to remain with the Silverstone-based outfit, admits he often wonders what might have been.
Having made his debut with Sauber in 2011, the Mexican appeared to have hit the big time when signed by McLaren for 2013. Dropped after just one season however, the Mexican found a new home at Force India.
Though the team has struggled this year as a result of its much publicised financial issues, for two consecutive seasons it was best of the rest, while his old team, McLaren, has fallen further and further down the standings.
“The future was looking amazing,” he tells the official F1 website. “Then McLaren came and things didn’t work out.
“That year was just a nightmare,” he admits of 2013 as teammate to Jenson Button, “the car and being against someone so experienced who was coping well with a difficult car. In the first part of the season, it wasn’t so good. In the second part of the season, I was beating him. But so many things happened at McLaren that year which meant I had no seat.”
However, in the old tradition of one door opening as another slams shut, the Mexican found a berth at Force India
“It’s interesting,” he says. “Since joining Force India, I’ve been out of contract every year and every year I get some offers from other teams. Some good teams show interest in me so that’s good. That’s good on me, it makes me feel proud. I’m delivering on track. The last two years, I’ve been best of the rest. If you’re not in a Mercedes or a Ferrari, Force India is probably the best place to be.”
Though the team has regularly punched well above its weight, this year the financial issues became too much, impacting not only the team’s performance but that of its drivers.
“There were a lot of months with a lot of stress,” he admits. “It was too much. I had three months where I couldn’t focus on being a racing driver. I was focused on behind the scenes. That was very hard.”
Indeed, it was Perez who finally took the required legal action which kick-started the process whereby the team was placed in administration and subsequently bought by Lawrence Stroll and his partners.
“I love this team,” he says. “I know everyone, I have great friends here. There’s something inside me that wants to be very successful with this team. This team has given me so much, so I feel there are good timing.”
Revitalised following the team’s buy-out and the anticipation of a return to form, Perez feels there is more to come and doesn’t rule out another stint with a top team.
“No one would have expected Valtteri to end up at Mercedes,” he says. “It is proof it can happen. So much is about timing and luck. It hasn’t been on my side at the moment. We’ll see if it comes on my side in the coming years. You never know what will happen in F1.”
“We’re racing drivers, we don’t get tired of this. The competition, the passion, the way we live life, it’s hard to stop.
“Sometimes, it’s disappointing that you don’t get an opportunity to drive a good car, but still, the competition is there. It’s what drives me. So I want to keep going for quite a bit and see what opportunity comes up for 2021, when the regulations change. If something happens there, we will see.”