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Perez missed out on chance at Red Bull early in career: 'That's just how Marko is'

26 November at 16:53
Last update 26 November at 22:44

Sergio Perez was on the verge of having to leave Formula 1 in late 2020, but Red Bull Racing recognised his potential and offered him the seat next to Max Verstappen. However, the Mexican came close to never reaching the premier class of motorsport.

In 2005, the then 15-year-old Perez moved to Europe to make his entrance into Formula BMW. The transition was difficult for the Mexican, who struggled with the language barrier and was on his own with his family far away. He decided to persevere because he realised it was his only chance to go far in motorsport.

Opportunity for 15-year-old Perez

"I knew that if I were to go back [to Mexico] I would never be back [in Europe] again. So that was what really motivated me to stay," Perez told GP Racing Magazine. His ultimate dream was Formula 1, so he got over his difficulties and decided to take his chance.

He got that chance from stone-rich Mexican businessman Carlos Slim. Slim invested 100,000 euros in Perez's move to Europe, a serious amount since F1 was not that big in Mexico at the time. It therefore took a lot of convincing from Perez to persuade his sponsor to let him go to Europe.

Failed evaluation with Marko

A few years later, Perez got the chance to convince a big name in European motorsport. None other than Helmut Marko had to assess whether the young driver would be admitted to Red Bull's junior programme. However, that evaluation did not go smoothly.

"I remember my seat wasn’t fitted properly, so I was hitting [the steering wheel] with my knees. I thought, OK, I do a run and then I adjust everything. But as I came back in, that was it! Basically it was only one run," continued Perez. Twelve years after this less successful first encounter, Perez would remind Marko of this story when he signed his contract with Red Bull - this time in F1.

While Perez might have hoped that that first evaluation would have gone better, at the same time he realises that this is just the way things happen in the highly competitive world of motorsport. "It was just how it happened. I didn’t get chosen for the programme. You know, it’s typical Helmut in that regard. If you don’t go as fast as you need to go it doesn’t matter why. So that’s pretty simple," the Red Bull driver concludes.