Sergio Perez provided some real-world advice to those who may be experiencing a situation similar to the one he faced at the end of the 2020 Formula 1 season.
When the 2020 Formula 1 season ended last December, Sergio Perez, who had taken the first victory of his career just one week earlier, wasn’t 100% sure what his future would hold.
It was announced earlier in the year that he would be replaced by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel alongside Lance Stroll at Racing Point, which were set to be rebranded as Aston Martin beginning in the 2021 season.
Despite a 2020 season that saw him finish in a career-high fourth place in the driver standings, even with missing two races after testing positive for COVID-19, he was left without a contract to compete in 2021 when the 2020 season came to an end.
However, that changed when he landed the best opportunity of his career and signed with Red Bull.
The weeks and months leading up to the signing of that new contract, which was announced less than a week after the 2020 season ended in Abu Dhabi, weren’t exactly stress-free for the 31-year-old Mexican, and it’s not hard to see why.
The driver who had been competing full-time in Formula 1 since 2011 did not have a drive lined up for what would be an 11th season, despite the fact that he was in the midst of his best season ever.
“Well it wasn’t easy, but that’s the way Formula 1 goes,” Perez told Beyond the Flag after talking about his recent participation in Red Bull Homestretch. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I just had to let whatever was going to happen, happen.”
Yet it was during that time of uncertainty that he delivered an epic comeback drive to secure his first career victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit, a win that ultimately played a huge role in him landing a deal with the Milton Keynes-based team for 2021.
“Ultimately, my approach was just to never give up, keep focusing on the races, keep delivering the performances, and have faith that the rest will take care of itself,” he continued. “Luckily it did!”
Perez offered some advice for those who may be dealing with similar situations of uncertainty surrounding their futures as well, irrespective of their careers or the decisions they are facing.
“I think it’s just important that people don’t get distracted in those situations, they stay on track, they stay on plan, they focus on delivering and they never give up,” he said.
Perez took that approach, and it paid off. Now he sits in third place in the driver standings with another victory through the first seven races of the 2021 season, his first season as Max Verstappen’s teammate.
“I am really enjoying being part of Red Bull and it stills feels special and a bit surreal to be wearing the team shirt,” he said. “I’ve only done seven races with the team so it’s still very early in the season but so far I am happy with a win and back to back podiums. I would have liked the season to start stronger for me given the great car that we have but I am still making steady progress each weekend.”
He talked about his expectations and what he wants to take away from his first season with the team.
“I don’t have a point or position target,” he explained. “My only aim is to extract the full potential from the car each race weekend. So if we have a car capable of winning, then I want to win. If we have a car capable of top five, then my aim is to finish inside the top five. It’s just about continuing to make progress and taking steps forward each weekend.”
Save for a disappointing second race in Imola, he has done that so far. But naturally, he still believes that there is room to grow as he aims to help Red Bull secure their first world championship since they won four in a row from 2010 to 2013.
“I have felt pretty comfortable and confident with my race pace on Sundays, so the area I am focusing on with the team is qualifying on Saturdays,” he said. “Once we improve there then I think we will see a good step up in performance and ultimately results.”
His first Red Bull victory came in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit, and it came in dramatic fashion. Leading the race with just five laps remaining, Verstappen had a tire give out on him, causing him to crash. This handed the lead to Perez.
On the ensuing restart with two laps to go, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton briefly took the lead from Perez on the inside heading into turn one, but he locked up his brakes and went sailing into the turn one runoff area.
From there, Perez was able to hang on ahead of Vettel in second place. And he did so without putting any additional pressure on himself to deliver the win for the team with Verstappen out of the equation and unable to score any points.
“When you’re in the middle of a race, and a battle like we were in with Lewis and Mercedes, especially on such a fast street track like Baku, you are just focusing on keeping the car on the track and bringing it home,” he stated. “There wasn’t time to think about anything else but just keeping Lewis behind and getting that victory.”
Perez is set to make his eighth start with Red Bull this weekend at the Red Bull Ring. The Styrian Grand Prix is set to be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 27.