Sergio Perez plays down rumours linking him with Ferrari switch


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The Independent Online

Sergio Perez is convinced he will remain with Sauber for the rest of the season, but that will not stop rumours linking him with a switch to Ferrari.

Perez's stunning drive to second place in yesterday's Malaysian Grand Prix saw the young Mexican come of age in Formula One.

In changeable conditions, and primarily after heavy rain halted the race for 51 minutes early on, arguably Perez should have taken the chequered flag as he pushed Fernando Alonso all the way to the line.

However, just as he had closed to within 0.5 seconds of the double world champion in his Ferrari on lap 50, a small error from the 22-year-old cost him the chance of a maiden win.

Despite that, and with Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa enduring another wretched race, rumours have circulated that Perez - a member of Ferrari's young driver academy - could replace the Brazilian.

It has been suggested that may yet be as early as China, although that has been denied by Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali as "just not true".

Perez, asked if he had spoken to Domenicali at any stage during the podium celebrations, said: "No, no, I only congratulated him.

"As a team they did a great job, and for me, my full commitment is with my team, with Sauber.

"Obviously it's only rumours, but no, I will stay with Sauber for the whole season.

"It's only the second race and there's still a long way to go, so we have to keep improving, especially as we're a small team."

Alonso, who grabbed his 28th career win, feels Perez is certainly on the right track given his position within the academy.

"As Sergio has said he is concentrated on Sauber, which is the obligation on the contract side," said Alonso.

"Ferrari's academy is doing a great job with young talent, and if Sergio is in the academy it's because Ferrari have seen big talent in him.

"In this race the victory was not possible, but I think a win will come sooner rather than later for Sergio."

Responding to the suggestion of Perez being his team-mate, that prompted Alonso to launch a staunch defence of under-fire Massa, who is without a point in contrast to the Spaniard's championship-leading 35.

"With Felipe we are a very strong team, a very united team and I don't see any possibility of not racing alongside him," said Alonso.

"Felipe had problems in the race in Australia, but in Malaysia, after changing a couple of things in the car, he was competitive.

"In qualifying he was P12, and when the race was red-flagged he was eighth.

"So in a normal race, and hopefully when the car improves, Felipe and I will be on the podium together, which is the goal for the rest of the season."

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has described Perez as "a revelation", and can understand talk of him being in a Ferrari by the next race in China on April 15.

"I imagine he has put a bit of pressure on Mr Massa," said Whitmarsh.

"I don't know what the odds are on him switching teams before China, but there must be consideration."