sport

Perez hopeful of title tilt

Sergio Perez is convinced he can be Formula One world champion next year when he joins McLaren.

Sauber driver Perez, who is replacing Lewis Hamilton at the Woking-based marque, insists it is not an idle boast and that he can step up and take the title.

That is despite the fact he is currently on a miserable run since it was confirmed he was joining the team as the Mexican is without a point in his last five races.

Perez has been warned what to expect in joining McLaren from both his future team-mate Jenson Button and team principal Martin Whitmarsh, in that it will be an intense experience, both on and off the track.

But despite the pressure that will be on his shoulders, Perez has no doubts he will be able to deliver.

"Definitely," said Perez. "As a driver you are looking forward to a big challenge, and this is a very big challenge coming up for me.

"McLaren are the best in Formula One, so definitely a big challenge, the preparation will be very intense, very hard, which I will need to fight for the title straight away."

Asked as to his expectations, Perez replied: "In terms of result, my target is to win titles with them, to win the championship next year.

"That will take a lot of work during the season, so it will be very important to start my preparation well with them, to reach that target.

"But I definitely believe I can do it because you are going to the best team, and the best team normally wins, so that's the target.

"This year they've had reliability issues, which if they solve then they will be fighting for the title, so I think what I'm saying is realistic.

"The team is capable of building a top car, and the target always has to be high, which is the way I have to think and the way McLaren thinks."

Perez rightly admits to being bitterly disappointed with his form of late given he flew into McLaren's radar on the back of three podium finishes.

The 22-year-old has rarely shown glimpses of that form since he was runner-up in the Italian Grand Prix just over two months ago.

"I would love to have scored more points than we've done, but maybe this weekend we can score in a very big way," added Perez.

"There are many details as to why, not just bad luck, and it's too easy to link my issue with me signing for McLaren. It has nothing to do with that.

"Despite these latest results, it been a good two years, two successful years, and now I'm looking forward to ending my career with the best possible result."

By way of a farewell and a thank you, Perez took his mechanics out to dinner last night at a churrascaria in Sao Paulo.

"As this is our last race with everybody together, to thank all my guys I invited them for dinner," said Perez.

"I wanted to thank them for all their efforts because we've had an incredible season and hopefully now we can finish it on a high."

Perez, meanwhile, inadvertently let slip compatriot Esteban Gutierrez will be

Sauber's second driver for next season.

Gutierrez, who has been the team's reserve for the last two years, will replace

Kamui Kobayashi and be team-mate to Nico Hulkenberg.

Sauber are due to confirm this weekend Gutierrez's promotion, only for Perez to spill the beans.

Speaking to Spanish journalists in the paddock as to Sauber's 2013 prospects, Perez said: "The car will be strong because the rules don't change much.

"And the team have a good experienced driver in Nico and he will have a strong team-mate in Esteban.''