AUSTIN – Sergio Perez holds one of two seats at Sahara Force India for 2017, which seemed unfathomable to write about a month ago, but is now the actuality after Nico Hulkenberg – instead – has departed for the Renault Sport F1 Team.
Perez addressed his own Renault rumors before explaining why he has re-signed with Force India.
“It was more to do with the fact that I believe in my team, I see the best future for me here,” he told assembled reporters on Thursday. “That’s why I took the decision to stay for another year.”
The Mexican driver now said that the vacant seat alongside him at the Mercedes-powered team is the “best available” one left for 2017, as the grid comes together for next season.
“I think many drivers wanted the seat at Force India because at the moment I think it is the best available seat out there,” Perez said.
“So there should be a lot of interest in that seat. I just hope that the team – and it’s down to the team totally to take the best possible decision.”
Perez, who’s been matched alongside Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber, Jenson Button at McLaren and Nico Hulkenberg at Force India, now could well assume team leader role in 2017 for what would be the first time in his career.
It seems a good possibility that a young gun such as one of the two Manor drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon, couldscore the Force India second seat.
Perez was quick to hail Hulkenberg as the best teammate he’s had, and downplayed suggestions he was overly keen to become the team leader.
“I think definitely Nico was the strongest teammate I’ve had up to date in F1,” Perez said.
“I think the relationship between myself and Nico was good, but not only that, I think our level on track was really closely-matched. Every single practice,” he said.
“And that meant a lot to the team because we pushed the team forward and that’s to the benefit of the team, to have two teammates that are so closely matched together. I always knew that if I didn’t get the perfect lap in quali, he would beat me, and vice-versa, and also in the race, race after race. That just helps the team because through our seasons we had bad cars and good cars, but it was always important to make sure that we took the maximum out of each car.
“I think whoever comes, it’s up to the team. I am sure that the team will take the best decision. We’re obviously looking for the best possible teammate that I can have.
“I just hope that whoever comes comes here with the right attitude and obviously a quick driver, a good attitude to work together for the team and work together to improve the car. That will be important. That makes a huge difference.
“If you have a driver that is too far off the pace and you see it sometimes in a couple of teams, you just don’t take the most out of the car because you know that if you don’t have a good lap you can still beat your teammate. I think for me it’s important to have the fastest possible teammate.”