S’pore ‘toughest’ track in the world: Perez

Getting into his McLaren MP4- 28 race car at 9pm always feels strange for Sergio Perez.

But that is hardly what makes the F1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix the most challenging race in the Formula One calender.

Speaking at the Johnnie Walker "Join The Pact" launch (see sidebar) at Clarke Quay yesterday, the 23-year-old said the Marina Bay street circuit stands apart from any other circuit in the world - not least for its atmosphere and narrow track.

"Many compare (the Singapore Grand Prix) to Monaco, but you cannot do that," he said. "The Singapore circuit is so demanding; you can't imagine how tough it is.

"There are 23 turns, that's the most in any track we (drivers) race on. Plus, its hot.

The weather just kills you. It is physically very demanding."

Toughness

Despite the toughness, Perez - dubbed "The Mexican Wunderkind" - said he always looks forward to the Singapore Grand Prix, which runs from tomorrow to Sunday.

The 1.72-metre tall driver, who made his Formula One debut at the 2011 Australian GP with Sauber, has not had as impressive a year as many expected.

Since replacing Lewis Hamilton at McLaren at the start of the season, Perez has amassed just 18 points and 12 complete races, placing him 12th in the drivers' standings.

Many racing critics have tipped him as a future world champion because of his aggressive overtaking moves and bravery on the track.

The young Mexican often drives with scant regard for reputation, pushing world champions Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton to the wire.

Perhaps it was fitting that the young upand- coming driver sat next to Mika Hakkinen, two-time F1 world champion (1998, 1999). who is another ambassador of Johnnie Walker's "Join The Pact" initiative.

The New Paper asked the retired Finnish driver whether he thought Perez could emulate him and win a world title in the future.

"He's a very talented driver, no doubt," Hakkinen said.

From my experience, it takes a number of years to understand everything about Formula One, from the politics to the cars.

"Once you get to that point, that's when your development peaks. Sergio has learned and developed very quickly.

"But if he is going to be world champion, only he should answer that."

To which Perez replied: "In this McLaren team, you are always under pressure.

I'm the first to apply pressure on myself.

"Let's just say, when I retire, I would be very disappointed if I didn't win a world championship. Right now, it's about maximising our potential at McLaren."

Perez added he was disappointed the McLaren team could not challenge the other teams as much as he wanted.

He is already looking ahead to next year, and believes his car is capable of winning races.

On his brave and devil-may-care driving style, Perez said he respected his rivals but always places his team first.

He said: "You get paid for driving your best and fighting for your team. I respect my opponents, but if I can win or gain a better position for my team, I will always go for it.

"On the Singapore track, we must all be smart. It's very easy to make a mistake and hit a wall on this track."

aakasim@sph.com.sg


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