Sergio Perez overawed by early days at McLaren

LONDON (AFP) - Mexican driver Sergio Perez admitted that he will need time to adapt to life at McLaren after addressing the British team's workforce for the first time on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old, brought in to replace the Mercedes-bound Lewis Hamilton, visited the team's headquarters in the southern English town of Woking and spoke to the 550 members of staff working there.

Perez had previously visited the McLaren Technology Centre to get his seat fitted and work with a simulator, but he admitted he was still pinching himself about joining the team.

"It is going to take some getting used to," Perez, who is paired up with Jenson Button, told Britain's Press Association. "It's certainly not hit me yet, to realise I am driving for the best team in the world, that you are part of the best team. It might take me some time.

"But I'm obviously very excited to start my new job with McLaren. It is incredible to finally wear the kit, to be with the team.

"Today (Wednesday) I met the entire race team, so it has been a very special day. It made me feel very proud to speak to them, proud to be part of such a great family, such a close family.

"Everybody loves working for this team and for me it's very special to be part of it." Despite having decided not to leave Switzerland, where he currently lives, Perez accepts he will need to make regular trips to Britain and may have to cut back on the amount of time he spends in his native Mexico.

"I won't move to the UK at the moment. I will stay in Switzerland as I like it there, but I will be here often with the team, close to the team," he said.

"Of course my main responsibility, my main goal is to win races, to be 100 per cent fit for every single race.

"So it's extremely important to reduce the travelling as much as possible, to be focused on the team, to give my very best to the team. That is the target.

"Other than that, you need a very good balance in your personal life to be able to give everything, so whenever I do have some to myself, I will choose whether to go back (to Mexico) or I stay at home.

"My priority right now is to give my maximum for the rest of the year." Perez registered three podium finishes with Sauber in 2012 but ended the year on a sequence of six races without picking up a point, but he says he will be targetting the world title when the new season begins in Melbourne on March 17.

"The past is the past and obviously I've learned quite a lot from that. I take the positives, and now I've a new challenge ahead of me," said Perez.

"We have to deliver, to win. The target is not simply to score points or podiums, but to win, to win the championship, because when you come to McLaren, you have the opportunity to do that."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.