Sergio Pérez of Oracle Red Bull Racing — known as Checo in the world of F1 — is getting ready for Saturday night’s inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix.
What make this particular race unique is it evens the playing field for the racers as they adjust to a new circuit — and in less than ideal weather conditions. The setting is in fact the coldest climate of the season when the sun goes down in the desert for the night races, hitting as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit Friday night as the competition kicked off with qualifications (Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc takes the pole position Saturday night, aka the most favorable place for a car to start a race).
But fans of F1 are well aware that Oracle Red Bull Racing has already taken home the big prize this season; the team secured its sixth constructors’ championship, with Pérez’s teammate Max Verstappen receiving the drivers’ championship. Pérez, 33, is close to securing second place (in a close race with Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes).
“I think it’s great that F1 is expanding the calendar around the world, and the U.S. races are great for me as well, being a Mexican driver,” Pérez told WWD of his thought on F1 heading to Las Vegas for the first time. “Vegas is a really special place, and [I’m] just excited for the race.”
Outside the track, Pérez has teamed with Patrón to help design a limited-edition tin celebrating his Mexican roots. He’s from the state of Jalisco, where the company has been crafting its tequila — making him a ideal fit for the partnership. To celebrate the occasion, Patrón hosted a dinner at chef Sarah Thompson’s Casa Playa inside the Wynn Las Vegas, bringing out Pérez for a rare pre-race appearance.
“[It] has been a really fun experience that has allowed me to reflect on my passions for racing and for my home of Mexico,” he said of the collaboration, producing a lime green tin designed with figures important to him — including the Xolotl, god of fire and lightning in Aztec mythology. “It was a cool opportunity for me to tap into my creative side a bit more than usual in my day to day as a professional driver and think about the symbols that I wanted to represent my life and passion for my country.”
Here, Pérez discusses F1 Vegas and heading to Abu Dhabi next — the final race of the season on Nov. 26.
WWD: What are your thoughts on the U.S.’ growing interest in F1?
S.P: For me as the only Mexican driver in F1 and one of two continental American drivers [with Logan Sargeant] — there is such a big Mexican and Latin American community at all the F1 race locations in the U.S. — it’s almost like I have four home races.
WWD: What are your views on the Netflix show that introduced most Americans to the sport?
S.P: It’s obviously great for all the drivers, and the show has brought us so many new fans. It was nice to be part of it and have my story with Oracle Red Bull Racing brought to a wider lens of racing fans and have them feel part of my journey.
WWD: How are you feeling about your season?
S.P: I am happy in general. It could always improve but to win races and finish on many podiums and win the constructors’ championship again with this amazing team has been great. Looking forward to next season already.
WWD: How do you prep before a race?
S.P: It’s so important to be physically and mentally ready for the races, and with so many this can be quite tough. I try to sleep as much as possible even with changing time zones, train and eat healthy. I think that’s so important for any athlete nowadays. I have to be immensely disciplined in order to stay at the top of our game for each and every race throughout the season.
WWD: Do you have any rituals?
S.P: To be honest, I don’t really have a routine. I always aim to arrive to a race early and try to be as relaxed as possible. I am pretty locked in and focused. Before getting in the car I always tell my wife and kids that I love them.
WWD: Do you prefer a day race or night race?
S.P: During the racing season we are traveling so often, across so many time zones, that day and night sometimes blend into one. However, a night race is always a fun excuse to celebrate afterwards.
WWD: What are your ideal weather conditions for a race?
S.P: Great question — weather of course plays a huge role in the conditions and intricacies of the track. Of course, a sunny but not too hot day is ideal. But the biggest factor for myself and most drivers is wind.
WWD: How do you decompress after a race?
S.P: With my family. Family is the most important to me, so any quality time I get to spend with them is incredible. [He welcomed his fourth child with wife Carola Martinez in September.]
WWD: Where do you see F1 heading as a sport?
S.P: I only see F1 getting bigger in the coming years. It has been getting so much attention, growing so rapidly over the past few years. And with that, the audience is really getting into the spirit of the sport which has been really exciting to watch. From our side, the energy at the track has been palpable and I only see the hype growing with every race.
WWD: What do you think about F1 exploring to expand to add more teams and drivers?
S.P: I love it. Would always be a pleasure to welcome new drivers, and competitors to our beloved sport.
WWD: What is next for you after Vegas and beyond?
S.P: From a racing perspective after Vegas, we’ll be heading to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the year, which is extremely surreal. It’s been an incredible racing year that has truly soared by. After that, I’m really looking forward to heading home to rest up for the holiday season with my loved ones.