London: Sergio Perez has responded to Jenson Button's assertion that he will be de facto team leader at McLaren this year by saying he will be "disappointed" if he does not beat his new McLaren teammate in their first season together, adding that he is aiming to win the championship.
The young Mexican was late reporting for duty on his first day at Woking on Wednesday, his flight from Mexico delaying a stage-managed arrival at the wheel of a gleaming new McLaren MP4-12C Spider. But once inside the hallowed McLaren Technology Centre the 22 year-old wasted little time getting stuck in.
Responding to Button's comments in this newspaper towards the end of last season that McLaren would be looking to him, as the elder statesman, to win the Formula One championship this year, Perez countered that he would be disappointed not to beat the 2009 world champion.
"I think at the moment it looks like Jenson has experience, has the team," Perez said. "And I'm looking forward to working with him; to learning from him. He's a great champion. The most experienced driver in the paddock now. But obviously I want to beat him as well. I will be disappointed if I don't beat him. If you don't expect to win you should go home. I am here to win the championship. That is the target."
Perez's performances for Sauber last year, when he made the podium three times having started way down the grid, led many to assume that Ferrari would ease the underperforming Felipe Massa aside for the young driver who was once on their books as a junior. Instead, the Italian outfit's president Luca di Montezemolo ruled out such a move, saying Perez lacked the "necessary experience".
That call became a big talking point when McLaren swooped after Lewis Hamilton defected to Mercedes.
Some believe that Fernando Alonso was afraid to have Perez alongside him at Ferrari. Others insist that Perez is no better than a handful of other drivers to have progressed through the junior formulas, the difference being that he is backed by Mexican telecommunications giant Telmex. They argue that his eye-catching drives for Sauber last year can be explained away by the simple fact that he started outside the top 10, and was therefore on a different tyre strategy to the cars in front of him.