Perez PA

Sergio Perez exclusive

Sergio Perez is very much flavour of the month in Formula 1. After an impressive second season in the sport, which has included a trio of shock podium finishes with Sauber, he has been snapped up by McLaren as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton. As the season reaches its climax, he spoke to Orange about his impending move, "fun guy" Jenson Button and his great friend, Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez...

Congratulations on the move to McLaren. Does it all seem quite surreal?
A little bit. I've got the opportunity to join the best team in Formula 1. It's very exciting for me so I'm very happy. If someone had told me last year that this would happen, I wouldn't have believed them so it still feels very unreal.

It's fair to say you've got quite an act to follow in Lewis Hamilton...
For sure, I've got a big guy to follow. I rate him very highly among all the drivers in F1. He is one of the fastest, maybe even the fastest I don't know. So, it's not going to be easy for me but I just have to make sure I make my mark with the team. McLaren are a successful team and the target is to continue that with me there.

What's your goal for next season?
To win the world championship of course.

Is that realistic in year one alongside someone like Jenson Button with so much experience of F1 and McLaren?
Of course, it won't be easy but I'm confident in my driving, I think McLaren know that. I've gone there to be world champion. Ok, maybe I need to break that down. To win the world title you need to win races so winning races is the first target and then the championship.

How highly do you rate Jenson and have you spoken to him much since making the move?
Jenson is one of the most experienced and fastest drivers in F1, and a former world champion. He's also a really good guy too. We've spoken a bit since it was announced and I like him. He's a fun guy and I'm going to enjoy racing with and against him next season.

What's the reaction to the news been like?
The people in Mexico are all really excited.

Has Javier Hernandez been in touch? We know you two are friends. What did he have to say?
Yeah, he's texted me to say congratulations. He's really happy for me and he says he's looking forward to seeing me in England to watch his matches. I tell him Barcelona are my team but obviously I support Manchester United too because of Chicharito. I'll be very busy with McLaren but I hope I can go to Old Trafford to watch him play.

How did you guys meet and become friends?
We're both from the same city, Guadalajara. He played football for the local team and I watched him play a few times. He scored some good goals and he was a good player. We met, I told him I was a striker and scored goals too, just not as many. He's a good guy and the move to Man Utd was a surprise to a lot of people but he's done really well.

Do you have plans to move back to the UK? You used to live there didn't you?
I lived in Oxford from 17 to 20 roughly while I was racing there. I will obviously spend a lot of time there but I don't think I'll get a house. I'll find a base somewhere else in Europe, I'm not sure where at the moment. But that's nothing bad against England. I like the place.

Looking back on this season, have you exceeded expectations?
I don't think I expected to be pushing for the race win against Fernando Alonso in Malaysia so maybe that was a surprise. But it's a good car and the team have done well. I'm really pleased but also disappointed not to have had a race win yet. We had the chance and hopefully we'll get another one before the season is over.