Formula 1 | ‘I was going crazy’: From Mexico to F1, the incredible saga of Sergio Perez

Getting to F1 is a real obstacle course; but for a pilot from Asia or South America, it is even more. With this difficulty that Sergio Perez faced throughout his youth, it becomes difficult not only to move to Europe, but to come to Europe in the first place.

In a moving account for The Players Tribune, Sergio Perez details his true journey from Mexico to the UK – showing just how much more dignity he can have than other drivers.

For the current Red Bull driver, the first thing that helped him was believing in his dreams – it may sound cliché, but it’s also important when you want to make the impossible possible. .

“There are countless drivers all over the world who want to compete in Formula 1, you know? Only 20 people can do it at any given time. »

“You certainly have to be lucky to be one of them.

“But you have to be a little crazy too. »

“I think the ‘good’ madness helped me a lot. A streak of madness definitely runs in the family. So it’s in my blood. »

“What about Formula 1? I never thought about it when I was a kid. There were no Mexican pilots. I just ran because I liked it. »

It explains an obstacle course that inspires admiration

Sergio Perez’s dream was almost dashed due to an accident where he was the victim of some personal enmity…

“I was leading the Mexican Formula Junior Championship, but I crashed with a guy who was very strong in the Mexican federation. Long story short, they took away my license. »

“I quit… The championship is over. I didn’t know it yet, but this would be my last race in Mexico for over a decade. »

“Fortunately, Telmex found out about my situation and gave me an exam anyway. When I was 14 I competed for them at the Skip Barber National Championships in the USA and I was happy. But one day I visited my brother who had moved to Great Britain to compete in Formula 4. I saw how professional things are there and realized that all the best pilots are in Europe. »

“Suddenly I only wanted to compete in Formula 1.”

“One way or another, I had to go to Europe. »

But from dream to reality, there was still a world. The first obstacle, the main obstacle, was, of course, the financial obstacle. How did Sergio Perez get the attention of the team then? Bluff!

“It was very difficult. A team had to give me a contract. It was very expensive, so a sponsor was needed. I was alone and I didn’t know what to do. »

“But there I was completely obsessed. So I started this crazy routine. When I was back in Mexico, I would get up at 3 a.m. every day and call the race teams in Europe. It’s easy today, isn’t it? Just find the details online. Twenty years ago it was much more difficult. I called the teams in broken English and asked them to give me a chance. I was writing an email. I was sending a fax at midnight. Thanks to an online translation site, I made a script that I paste into my emails or read on the phone. »

“I think my elevator pitch went something like this: Hi, I’m Sergio Perez, I’m a Mexican driver, VERY fast…and I have a sponsor. »

“The sponsor was important because if they knew I had money, they would be interested. Of course, I didn’t have it, but I could tell later. »

Expensive phone calls…

Calling all those teams in Europe on the phone has failed Sergio Perez… He recounts the moment his mum went to pick him up, considering the scores!

“My mother is very relaxed. But one day he yelled at me…”

He said to me, what did you do with the phone? »

“I tell him, ‘Actually, I’ve been calling race teams in Europe.'”

“She says you’re crazy? YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE????” »

“He went mad with rage! I thought maybe he was exaggerating, but when I saw the bill…wow. Calls are 10 times more expensive than normal. Guess all the hours spent online and midnight faxes didn’t help. Yes, he was very angry. »

“He didn’t understand what I was doing. To him, I was just a kid playing on the phone and spending money. When I explained to him that I was pursuing this dream, he made sure that calls to Europe were blocked at home. »

“It was a nightmare because I could only send emails. In retrospect, I think I could have said: Checo is crazy. Let’s do something else. »

“But let’s say I stayed online. One day I contacted a guy named Günter Unterreitmeier who ran a small German Formula BMW team. His English was almost as bad as mine, but thanks to my German-speaking friend, I realized that he was offering me very cheap. So of course I accepted. I just didn’t have a small budget – none. »

“I was in heaven. I finally had a door to Europe. »

A collision across the Atlantic

Sergio Perez finally gets a sponsorship deal after a long fight with Mexican telecom billionaire Carlos Slim.

Then came the arrival in Europe… and the first big culture shock.

“When I landed, I met Gunter for the first time. I almost asked him where are all the pilots? We drove about 40 minutes to where I will live. Looking out the window, I saw that the buildings were getting smaller and smaller. The colors were getting greener. Soon I said: What? Are there no houses here? ! »

“We went to a small village. It was my new home. »

“Fields. Trees. Tractors. I was completely shocked. »

“No one explained to me that I would live like this. You must understand how difficult this is for me. I was used to Guadalajara with a population of 1.5 million. I was happiest hanging out with my friends like the other Mexican kids. I am Latino, very close to my family. I need people around me. »

“I was checking in this hotel where all the trucks were parked. I was alone. I didn’t have a job. It was too expensive to call home. I don’t have internet. Even if I met people, I didn’t speak German and English very well. My only friend was Günter, whom I only saw on weekends. I spent the rest of the week in the gym. »

“After three days I was going crazy. »

Sergio Perez’s life then accelerated: moving away from home, English F3, GP2… The Mexican passes very quickly during these years when everything is blocked for him.

“In the following years, everything went very fast. When I was 17 I moved to Oxford to race in British Formula 3. Two years later I had good results in the GP2 series. »

“After my second season there, I signed a contract with Sauber. »

“Suddenly I was in Formula 1.”

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