Sergio Perez felt like ‘the stupidest guy on earth’ last year when he became the first Formula 1 driver to catch coronavirus.
Driving for Racing Point at the time, Perez caught COVID-19 after a trip home to Mexico to visit his mother, who had been in hospital.
It meant he missed both of the races at Silverstone before he was able to make a successful return.
Reflecting on his rollercoaster 2020 season, which included his maiden win and having his contract terminated early by Racing Point, Perez said that he endured some difficult times.
“I certainly had a very tough year, I will say,” said Perez in a video interview hosted by his new Red Bull team.
“With corona, being the first driver to get the virus – you know, now it’s like a bit more normal [that] people get it – but at the time it was like, ‘you’re the most stupid guy on earth, because you got the virus.’ It was very harsh, you know, for me to deal with it.”
Perez’s return to action with Racing Point coincided with a ramping up of speculation that he could be replaced by Sebastian Vettel at the renamed Aston Martin squad for 2021.
Although the team played down the talk at the time, in the end it opted for the four-time world champion and that meant Perez faced a battle to save his F1 career.
“It was a very critical time in my career, because there was the contract thing,” said Perez reflecting on the circumstances surrounding that phase of the year.
“In the end I lost the seat with my team, but it worked out really well. But I never knew what was going to happen.
“When that happened, I was pretty relaxed. I thought, ‘well, I’ve had a tremendous career already and I’m pleased with myself, but I just have to give it all weekend after weekend and see what happens.’
“When the Red Bull opportunity opened up, it was sometimes looking better, sometimes looking worse. But then in the end, it worked out.
“So I think these opportunities, [they] only come once in your life. I know that, and I’m ready to make it work.”
While Perez has known the Red Bull news for weeks now, and visited the team’s Milton Keynes factory recently for his first meetings with the team, he still admits it feels slightly surreal driving for it.
“I still don’t believe that I’m here to be honest,” he said. “When I put the Red Bull branding on myself, it’s like ‘wow’. It’s something that I never really considered as an option, because not being part of a Red Bull programme at a young age seems to be critical.
“But things in life, you end up in places that you dreamed of. So it’s a dream come true to be part of this Red Bull family. It’s just amazing. I love so much the brand. I have so much admiration for what they do and the amount of support they do to the sports.
“I just look forward to have a very successful start. But more than that, a very successful season.”
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