Sergio Perez has revealed he was “kicked out” of a Red Bull junior test almost 15 years ago for being too slow.
When Red Bull announced Perez as their new driver late in 2020, it was a surprise to some as the team looked outside of their young driver programme for the first time since 2007 – but it turns out he had the chance to be a part of that.
Perez told the Beyond the Grid podcast: “In 2007, I was invited through my programme to do a test.
“It didn’t go well. I had an issue with the seat, because my knees were hitting the wheel, so I couldn’t turn. So I was quite far off the pace. I thought I was going to be able to sort out the seat and so on.
“When I went back, I was just kicked out. I didn’t have an extra chance. I was too slow. It was all about lap time. I was just kicked out. I think that was in 2007 or 2006.
“Then I went into Formula 3. I was racing against the Red Bull drivers and I was leading the championship. I saw him [Helmut Marko] at Silverstone [and said] ‘Helmut, how are you?’
“‘We will beat you, we will beat you,’ he was telling me. So, okay, ‘have a nice day, Helmut’.”
Not being picked up by Red Bull was clearly not the end for Perez though, as he progressed from British F3 into GP2 with Escuderia Telmex and then raced for Arden – Christian Horner’s team.
There was another chance back then for him to join up with Red Bull, as he had a chat with Horner after finishing P4 in a Silverstone race.
“The other conversation was once in GP2, my first year with Christian,” Perez explained.
“After one good race I did in Silverstone, he came to me and said ‘hey, what are you doing?’ and so on.
“He told me, ‘hey, you’re doing alright, but you have your own driver programme, you don’t need me’. That was the final conversation we had that I remember.”
Almost 15 years on and the pair are now working together heading into the 2021 season when they will be hoping to close the gap between themselves and Mercedes.
Asked if he believes not making their young driver programme helped his career, Perez said: “Who knows what would have happened, what opportunities I would have got.
“[It] definitely helps to be part of that junior programme. But I just have to say I’m extremely thankful to [Dietrich] Mateschitz, to Helmut, Christian, Adrian [Newey], all the Red Bull family, because to give me this opportunity it’s something great.
“They are driven by results. And nobody before gave me the opportunity to be in a top car, so I just have to make sure I deliver now.”