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Why Sergio Perez must avoid a repeat of Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren experience

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Why Sergio Perez must avoid a repeat of Heikki Kovalainen's McLaren experience
Jan 9, 2013, 6:07 PM

McLaren today officially unveiled its new driver Sergio Perez, in McLaren colours, at media events in the team's HQ at Woking and in Central London...

McLaren today officially unveiled its new driver Sergio Perez, in McLaren colours, at media events in the team's HQ at Woking and in Central London

And the 22 year old Mexican made a bullish start, saying that he hopes to fight for the world title from the first race onwards and that he will be disappointed if he does not beat Jenson Button during their scheduled three-year partnership.

Button will start his 229th Grand Prix in Melbourne while Perez will be starting only his 38th. To have landed a McLaren seat so soon is remarkable, but Perez is mindful that he does not want to repeat Heikki Kovalainen's experience with the team, being dropped after just two seasons with disappointing results,

"Hopefully we can have a very strong car and fight for the championship. That has to be the target," he said this morning when speaking to BBC's Jennie Gow.

'I think at the moment it looks like Jenson has experience, has the team,’ Perez added. 'He's a great champion - the most experienced driver in the paddock now. So I think I have a lot to learn from him. And obviously I want to beat him as well. I will be disappointed if I don’t beat him. I am here to win.'

'If you don’t expect to win you should go home. I am here to win the championship. That is the target. As a driver you always dream to drive for McLaren. To be here sitting down and giving my first interviews as a McLaren driver is a very special moment."

Perez had an early lesson on life at McLaren when he was told to tuck his shirt in, but he says that he has already appreciated how special the feeling within the team is,

"From the outside it looks as if it might be a very cold team – very strict and very cold – but when I came here I was surprised at what a great family it is, " he said. "I have to respond to the trust they put in me.'

In Button, Perez has a very experienced team mate, who knows what it takes to win in F1, which is vital. F1 drivers tend to improve race performances with experience, so it's likely that Button will have the edge on Sundays, but his erratic qualifying performances may offer the Mexican some opportunities to get some confidence boosting results on Saturdays. Although Perez himself has proved rather erratic in qualifying himself.

At this level, F1 is a head-game; the attention and pressure are much higher when you are expected to win, than when you over perform in a Sauber and score some podiums. Perez got a taste of this after he was announced as a McLaren driver following the Singapore Grand Prix. The signs were not encouraging; having scored 66 points up to then he failed to score another in the remaining six races.

Knowing how to cope with the expectation and what to do when things aren't going well is what Kovalainen learned from his time at McLaren. He could not cope with Lewis Hamilton's speed and admits he looked in the wrong place for the answers.

"Things were not going well," Kovalainen said when reflecting on the experience, "Expectations were high and we were not able to deliver that meant that the confidence in your own ability...you were starting to ask questions; Is it my problem? My team mate is getting better results, is it my problem?'"

You can listen to what Kovalainen said about this experience on the JA on F1 Podcast , Episode 2

Perez is aware of what is expected of him and time will tell how he copes with the experience. McLaren is a team which tends to take care of all the details around the driver to eliminate problems and negatives and get the most from them. They even have a specialist engineer, whose job it is to manage everything the driver comes into contact with in the cockpit.

"I don't feel the pressure but obviously you have to deliver here in McLaren," Perez said. "You are coming here to deliver results, to win championships. This is the target when you come to McLaren, the best team in F1, you have to really deliver the results."

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Series Formula 1
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