Motor racing-Perez lets the good times roll
By Alan Baldwin
LONDON, April 18 (Reuters) - Sergio Perez has drawn strength from the past, hopes still for a big team move in the future but most of all he is enjoying the present.
Force India's Mexican Formula One driver is on a roll, racking up 13 successive races in the points after finishing seventh in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix despite starting only 18th.
No other driver on the grid can boast that current level of consistency, even if champions Mercedes and Ferrari are the ones winning races.
The 27-year-old, who started out by bringing substantial sponsor backing to Sauber, has repaired the damage of a difficult 2013 season at McLaren and seen his stock rise steadily since.
Last season he helped Force India to a best-ever fourth in the championship and is now aiming to put them on the podium for a fourth year in a row. The team have only ever had five top-three finishes and Perez has provided four of them.
"I think that across the teams, they are realizing now, my stats and the job I have been doing for the last few years," Perez told Reuters.
"I have grown a lot and certainly feel that I am doing a fantastic job together with the team and we are growing and doing great things together."
While former champions McLaren started their decline in the year he joined, and have gone from bad to worse with a nightmare start to 2017, Perez says his time at Woking has proved ultimately beneficial.
"Given where McLaren is, and what’s happened in my career since I left McLaren, pretty much my career has been on a high," he said.
A former Ferrari academy member, Perez needs no reminding that Kimi Raikkonen will be out of contract at Maranello at the end of the season.
The man whose car has this season been painted a striking pink -- "the good thing about it is that you will always see us on track" -- has always dreamed of red.
Perez said he turned down offers last season from a couple of teams, one of them known to have been Renault, before agreeing a one-year extension at Force India that keeps him free for 2018.
"I am in a very good moment of my career where if the opportunity comes I think I will be ready with my knowledge and experience to really make the most of it," he said of the possibility of a move to a bigger team.
"It will be really a question of if it comes or not, but right now I feel really ready in all the aspects and especially having that bad moment at McLaren. I think that built a lot of the strength that I have now, the way I understand the sport and the way it works.
"There’s nothing else I can do than focus on doing the best possible job for Force India and see what happens. I am not obsessed with thinking all the time on what is coming in the future. I want to enjoy the present...enjoy the momentum."
Force India's deputy team principal Bob Fernley hailed the Mexican as a "fabulous racer" whose talents were under-appreciated by some.
"He doesn't get flustered in any way and if there is any opportunity at all of an overtake or finishing the race in the points, he's there," he told Reuters.
"I just feel that sometimes people have classed him as a driver capable of managing tyres, and that's been the sort of main focus.
"And actually, they're missing a point. Sergio is an incredibly aggressive driver but just happens to be a very smooth driver in the process. Some of his overtake manoeuvres in the last three races have been just superb." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)