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Motor racing: Perez feeling the pressure

McLaren Formula One driver Sergio Perez of Mexico arrives in the paddock at the Bahrain International Circuit April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Caren
McLaren Formula One driver Sergio Perez of Mexico arrives in the paddock at the Bahrain International Circuit April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Caren

By Alan Baldwin

MANAMA (Reuters) - Mexican Sergio Perez is not afraid to admit he is feeling the pressure at McLaren.

The 23-year-old, who took over from Lewis Hamilton after the 2008 Formula One world champion left for Mercedes at the end of last season, assured reporters at the Bahrain Grand Prix that he could handle it, however.

"I have definitely felt the pressure. At McLaren everyone is watching your performance - in every single practice session, every single race," he said.

"I find it quite amazing that...after one bad weekend I received so many criticisms.

"If I am totally honest, I am not bothered about it. I am here to do my job and I will try my best this weekend and the next 16 weekends."

Perez has scored points in only one of his three races for McLaren so far, a ninth place in Malaysia, but much of that is down to the car which has been far less competitive than the team had hoped.

Team mate Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, was fifth at the last race in China and ninth in the Australian season-opener. But he is in his fourth season with the team and is the most experienced driver on the starting grid.

In Shanghai, Perez tangled with Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and was criticized by some rivals for weaving on the track when they tried to overtake.

After China, team principal Martin Whitmarsh supported the driver and told reporters that he had asked the Mexican to 'use his elbows' and be tougher on the track.

"We had a word about it, and it's difficult to judge when you can be aggressive and when not," said Perez, when asked about the comments.

"When you are on a different strategy and mainly looking after the tires, the worst thing you can do is fight someone next to you who is on a different strategy, who is two or three seconds faster than you.

"So you are not fighting that guy, you are fighting someone who is behind you. It is a difficult balance to judge."

Hamilton said he had watched Raikkonen and Perez battling in China and felt it had been a robust defense, although the Mexican had made his car "as wide as he could" at other times.

He knew also what Perez, who spent his first two years at Sauber, must be going through at McLaren although he felt it was less pressure than he had experienced on his debut in 2007.

"I would say it was easier for him because he's been racing already in Formula One so he knows what it's all about. He knows what it's like with the first corner. I had no understanding what it was going to be like until I got here," he said.

"But there is a lot of pressure when you are in such a strong and powerful team like that. It's not easy. Just as it is here. The team relies heavily on you, on just those two drivers to pull those results out and if you don't you feel it.

"He looks like an individual who feels it."

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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