Perez: Force India set for tough weekend in Barcelona

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MONTMELO – Sergio Perez believes that Force India is set for a difficult time at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix due to a lack of upgrades on the car and the nature of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Despite only completing two full days of pre-season running with the VJM08 car, the team has enjoyed a solid start to the 2015 season, picking up 11 points from the first four races.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Perez expressed his delight with the opening leg of the year, but believes that the team is in for a difficult race in Spain this weekend.

“I think the first four races have been better than expected,” Perez said. “To be 10 or 12 points behind Red Bull is a massive effort for us coming out of the first four races, so I think we need to be optimistic.

“Obviously, we’ve been lacking a lot of pace, so I think the effort that has been done in the first four races has been pretty special considering what the basic pace of the car is.

“I think this one is going to be a particularly difficult one for us considering Barcelona, how hot is the track and the level of downforce is what we’re lacking the most. I expect to have a difficult one, but on the other hand, not any more difficult than other weekends.

“So yeah, optimistic, but difficult when you don’t have any upgrades. I think some of the teams are bringing some upgrades, so let’s see what we can do.”

When asked by MotorSportsTalk if the team was focusing on damage limitation until the first major updates on the car could be applied at the British Grand Prix in July, Perez said that the team was still giving its all to fight up the grid.

“We have improved our car by quite a bit since the test, so in that respect, we should be better than we were here in the test,” he said. “Although we haven’t done any upgrades to the car, we’re learning about the car, and that’s positive.

“We’ve got some small tweaks to the rear of the car, so that’s something to try as well. We obviously are pushing very hard back at the factory, trying to bring the package altogether.

“We would love to have the package for Barcelona, which didn’t happen. I think Silverstone will be the first time we have a new package.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.