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My Life & Cars – Sergio Pérez, Red Bull Formula 1 driver

As he enters his fourth season with Red Bull, we sat down with Sergio Pérez to discuss his Formula 1 journey so far – and why he doesn’t drive his Ferrari 458 very often…

It’s the seat everybody wants, but it’s one that for the past four seasons, Sergio Pérez has refused to let slip. There have been moments of true brilliance for the Mexican during his stint at Red Bull Racing, but also times when the tremendous pressure of driving a championship-grade car alongside an elite teammate has weighed heavy. Ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 season, evo caught up with ‘Checo’ to get to know one of the sport’s current front-runners.

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Sergio has been racing for nearly three decades. Like most of his F1 peers he began in karts, and delivering results during those formative years was crucial for attracting sponsors to facilitate his climb up the ladder. His first sniff of a chance in F1 came as a teenager. 

‘I was in high school. It became a little bit clearer and I was a lot closer to it [F1]. But I mean, you are as close as you are far because there are no guarantees at all, and it's very unlikely that a seat becomes available, and that a team will choose a rookie. But it worked out, I entered GP2 and won a lot of races. I finished second in the championship, but I had a lot of reliability issues that year. So I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to jump into F1 with Sauber.’

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Checo’s career has been characterised, if anything, by mental fortitude. Drivers rarely get a second chance at a top team in F1, but after being dropped by McLaren at the end of a turbulent 2013 season, Pérez spent seven years with Force India (later Racing Point) and squeezed himself to the front of the queue to replace Alex Albon at Red Bull for 2021. Despite putting in some stellar performances for Racing Point in 2020 – including a maiden win at the Sakhir Grand Prix – Checo wasn't particularly optimistic about sealing the Red Bull deal. 

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‘Red Bull is a team that is known for taking drivers from their pool, so I was not that confident. But towards the end of the year, I had options for the year after (2022), which meant that I was going to take a year off, but it was guaranteed that I was going to come back to the sport so it worked out well. I had a good year with Racing Point as well. 

Christian [Horner] and I met once in person, and we got in touch through WhatsApp. Then after each race I kept asking if there was any news, and Christian was telling me to hold back because they weren’t in a position to make a decision. Then luckily, Red Bull decided to take me towards the end of the year. That was just an incredible opportunity.’

A world championship has eluded him so far, but the Red Bull move has seen Checo become the most successful Mexican driver in history with six wins, 36 podium finishes and a career-best second place in the standings last year. Just a handful of people have experienced a top-level F1 car at full attack – has the thrill worn off after 13 years in the sport? 

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‘Always at the start of the season, the G forces get to you. It doesn't matter how much you train during the winter, you always finish at the first test with a sore body. It doesn't really matter what you've done in the winter, you will always be tired when you get to the first race.

You feel it through your body, through your neck, through your upper body, but also your core stability. You feel it in your legs too when pulling G's on high speed corners, and you're constantly feeling that for two hours.’

It’s no secret that extracting the most from the Red Bull has been enormously challenging – not just for Checo, but for anyone stepping into that second seat. Most drivers don’t respond well to the extreme front-end sensitivity enjoyed by Max Verstappen, and thus end up unravelling their driving styles or forcing the car out of its sweet spot with a more conservative setup. 

‘I like to carry good speed into the corner,’ says Perez. ‘I carry speed into the corner and get aggressive on the throttle. That's my style, but sometimes it’s hard to carry that speed in because of the [car] balance, but I'm always trying to aim for that – to brake as late as possible.

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Pushing the setup in the right direction was pretty important. It took a bit of adaptation because every team in Formula 1 is very different, how they achieve the lap time. So it took a bit longer to get the maximum out of the car.’

Outside of competition, Checo doesn’t appear to be interested in driving at all. He doesn’t have an enormous car collection, nor the desire to hunt out great roads for enjoyment’s sake. Given that he straps into an F1 car once a fortnight, that’s not surprising. 

‘I have a Ferrari 458 but I don't use it very often. You know, I have four kids at home so I'm always driving a big car in traffic. So yeah, when I'm at home I don't really think about driving for fun. I think I get enough of that in Formula 1. Once I retire I will probably be looking for straight roads that are free of traffic.’

Pushing him for a standout driving memory, he says ‘We got a puncture once, coming back from the beach. On the motorway, finding a guy that could change the tire was quite challenging.’ 

Not a problem he’ll have at Red Bull this year, certainly. 

TAG Heuer is the Official Partner and Timekeeper of the Oracle Red Bull Racing Formula 1 Team

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