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2013-01-10 08:56

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Sergio Perez (right) poses with his new team boss, McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, as the team gears up for Formula 1 testing in Jerez, Spain.


LONDON, England - Despite turning up at the factory front door in a bright orange McLaren supercar and receiving a standing ovation from the team's 500-strong staff, Sergio Perez struggled to comprehend just how much his lifestyle had changed.

Perez said: "I think it didn't hit me yet. It takes some time to realise that you are driving for the best team in the world, that you are part of the best team."

Perez, a former Sauber driver, was recruited as Lewis Hamilton's replacement; the long-time McLaren driver has moved to Mercedes for 2013.


Perez, who made an entrance in an orange McLaren MP4-12C Spider, said: "This is very easy to get used to. I think the real changes are coming in terms of pressure, results, work."

He had been with Sauber since 2011, a mid-ranked F1 team which makes the most of its resources without generating too much excitement.

McLaren is in another dimension, even if Perez occasionally beat both their drivers in 2012 on his way to three podium finishes.

As the first Mexican driver in more than 40 years of F1, Perez knows his nation expects as much, if not more, from him than McLaren.


Taking over from Hamilton is a daunting task but the man Perez will be measured against in 2013 is McLaren team mate Jenson Button, who won the first and last races of 2012.

McLaren was also the team of the late Ayrton Senna and F1 greats Alain Prost and James Hunt.

Perez said: "To be part of the team Ayrton made history with is very special. I hope one day my name can be next to those champions."

Without a point in his last six races and yet to win, Perez negotiated the immediate pitfalls faced by any newcomer when being grilled by the media, emphasising his respect for Button and how much he hoped to learn from him. He said he would be disappointed not to beat Button and hoped to be fighting for wins from the start and be in the running for the 2013 title.

"The target is not to score points or podiums, the target is to win, to fight for wins, and to win the championship because when you come to McLaren you have  the opportunity to do it," he said.

He hadn't spoken to Button since 2012 but expected to get on well with him. "I think he's quite a nice guy, a very open guy as well, like me. He's always with his family, a bit like me as well, so I expect to have a good relationship with him although you never know. But I see Jenson as a very open guy."

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