SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Ferrari’s decision to retain Kimi Raikkonen for 2018 came as no surprise to Mexican Sergio Perez, whose hopes of one day joining the Italian team appear to be fading fast.
“I was expecting it,” the Force India driver, still in negotiations with his team about next year, told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix when asked about Ferrari’s announcement earlier in the week.
Perez, a former Ferrari academy driver, has made no secret of his desire to join a top team.
A move to the Italian outfit would be a dream scenario for Mexican Grand Prix promoters, whose Formula One circuit is named after the late Ferrari drivers Pedro and Ricardo Rodriguez.
The 27-year-old, who had a difficult season with McLaren in 2013, has had seven career podium finishes but remains surprisingly under-rated.
Ferrari’s decision to retain 2007 world champion Raikkonen, who will be 38 in October, for one more season gives the team breathing space until other top drivers become available at the end of next year.
Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel also looks sure to stay after his contract expires this year, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Perez said he expected his own situation to be resolved soon, with his personal sponsors also involved.
“Hopefully once we go into Asia, my future is secured. I‘m in no hurry, I know that I am in a good position,” he said.
“There are a couple of options that we are analysing and trying to get the best one,” he added when asked whether he was looking long-term or for a one-year deal. The last European race of the season is in Italy on Sept. 3.
Perez was also critical of the yawning gap between the best and the rest in Formula One.
“What is frustrating for me is the way the sport is at the moment, with simply a team or two teams being able to compete for the top and then there is a big margin behind,” said the Mexican.
“If you are not in those two teams it is very difficult. Then you are in the same position as everyone else around you.”
Force India are currently fourth in the championship after 11 races, more than 200 points behind champions Mercedes and Ferrari.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Christian Radnedge