Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Sergio Perez says his Force India team 'won the championship' for best of the rest
Force India's Mexican driver highest placed driver in the standings not driving a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bill in seventh
He may be set to finish seventh in the Formula One drivers' standings and his team fourth in the constructors', but in Sergio Perez's mind it is his Force India team who have "won the championship".
Not the actual driver's one of course. That was won by Mercedes-GP's Lewis Hamilton last month in Mexico.
But in a season dominated by three teams - Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing - the Mexican driver believes F1 is now effectively being run as a two-tier series with the three teams at the front, and then everyone else, his team Force India included, fighting to be the best of the rest.
That is exactly what Perez and Force India have done in 2017, with the 27-year-old Mexican in seventh place in the championship standings, the highest placed driver not driving a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull, while the team are fourth in the constructors' championship.
"The gap to the top teams has been a bit disappointing this year," Perez said at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday ahead of Sunday's final round of the season, the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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"I think this year more than ever there were two categories in Formula One, with the first couple of teams and then the rest of us. So we can say we won the championship."
Perez is on a run of seven consecutive points finishes going into this weekend's race. He has scored 94 points in 16 of the 19 rounds this season to help Force India to a total of 177 points, their best ever haul in F1.
Assessing the season he said: "The team have done an incredible job and it is the second season in a row that we are fourth, so in that regard we can be quite happy.
"Finishing seventh, once again, in the drivers' championship it is a good achievement on my side. It is pretty much the maximum I could get."
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The only disappointment for Perez is that neither he or teammate Esteban Ocon have stood on the podium this season, with Perez's best result being fourth in Spain in May. He finished third twice in 2016.
"Not having the podium probably takes something away from the achievement this year but at the end of the day I feel I did my job," Perez said.
"I brought home a lot of points. We had some ups and downs during the season and I don't think it is my best year with the team but it certainly is not a bad one."
Perez said missing out on a top-three finish in Azerbaijan was one of his biggest regrets of 2017.
"Definitely Baku," he said of the race where he had run in the top five early on until contact with Ocon dropped him back and he eventually retired with steering failure.
"I think in Baku I think had the podium there with so many safety cars. I got unlucky there when the incident with Esteban came, but the whole weekend that was the one that was the closest."
Updated: November 23, 2017 03:32 PM