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Mat Coch writes:
It was a hungry Sergio Perez that touched down in Melbourne, and not because he didn't fancy the food on his long haul flight from Europe.
Having moved from Sauber to McLaren during the off-season the Mexican finds himself with a realistic opportunity to claim his first Grand Prix win this year, a tantalising prospect he is keen to experience. "As a Formula One driver you dream about winning your first race all your life," he admitted. "I am desperate to know what it feels like."
The 23-year-old had his first opportunity to win at last year's Malaysian Grand Prix. In wet conditions Perez was chasing down Fernando Alonso in the final stages, only to run wide and halt his charge with victory almost within his grasp.
Yet for all the ability he's shown there are still those who doubt his pedigree. "He had some very strong performances last year but it's difficult to judge until you see him in a top team like McLaren," former McLaren driver John Watson told the Guardian.
"While McLaren do not run a number one and number two driver, politically they have always tried to employ the best possible drivers who were available," he added. "Not who they could afford but who were available. However, you get an indication that the choice of Perez was in part influenced by his association to Carlos Slim, who happens to be the wealthiest man in the world."
The implication that Perez is little more than a glorified pay driver is an affront to both Perez and McLaren. It is true the Mexican did not enjoy an overly strong end to 2013 however his overall performances, most notably the fact he out-shone Kamui Kobayashi for much of their two-year partnership, speaks volumes. Furthermore McLaren is not a team in need of money in the same way Marussia or Williams are.
In reality, Perez's links with Carlos Slim are a welcome bonus and are unlikely to have been considered as primary reasons for hiring him over the likes of Nico Hulkenberg et al. What's more, McLaren was not the first top team he was linked to; for much of 2012 there were suggestions he could replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari. As the old saying goes; fifty thousand Frenchman can't be wrong.
"It was nice last year that the top teams had an interest in me," Perez confessed. "It made me feel very honoured. They do a very deep analysis, because it is a big decision to take a driver. They are looking at your improvements, the way you work with a team, how you progress. I had an incredible two seasons."
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