If US Grand Prix organisers are looking for a brand ambassador, Sauber’s Sergio Perez wouldn’t be a bad choice.
The first Formula One driver from Mexico to reach the podium in 40 years, the 22-year-old racer is being touted as the next Ayrton Senna. His success this season has also put Formula One on the radar in Mexico, which means the race in Austin, Texas later this month is expected to attract plenty of Latinos. The inaugural race is just a few hours’ drive from the Mexican border.
“It definitely will be a big home race event for me,” Perez said of the November 18 race. “It’s the closest race we have to my country. Definitely there will be a lot of Mexicans there especially now with the moments I’m having. They are very excited and looking forward to my having a long career in Formula One.”
Perez, who is 10th in the drivers’ standings, has finished on the podium three times this season, and his second place finish behind McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton at the Italian GP in Monza was hailed as one of the most impressive drives of his young career. It also fuelled rumours that the boyish-looking Perez may be headed to Ferrari as a replacement for Felipe Massa.
Instead, he was announced as the replacement for Hamilton at McLaren. Hamilton, who won his only F1 title in 2008, will be moving to Mercedes, which made a lucrative offer that McLaren couldn’t match.
“I was jumping on my bed,” Perez said when he heard of his move to McLaren. “I realised it was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was really motivated and think I’ve come into the best possible place on the grid. The best team, the best people. I’m just so happy to join my new family next year.”
Perez is likely to have a hard time matching the exploits of Hamilton but the soft-spoken Mexican seems unfazed by the prospect.
“I rate Lewis very high. He is one of the fastest drivers in Formula One right now,” he said. “To come into those shoes, it will be difficult to fit. I’m confident it was an opportunity I was hoping to have and will give my best. I’m sure I will be very good there. I’m a hungry man for victory and want to win a lot, many titles with McLaren.”