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F1: Sergio Perez joins Force India but the Mexican has one eye on a top drive

By Sarah Holt, for CNN
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1158 GMT (1958 HKT)
All smiles for Mexican racer Sergio Perez as he signs for Force India under the watchful eye of new boss Vijay Mallya
All smiles for Mexican racer Sergio Perez as he signs for Force India under the watchful eye of new boss Vijay Mallya
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sergio Perez to partner Nico Hulkenberg at Formula One team Force India in 2014
  • The Mexican tells CNN he wants to prove he can race for a top team again
  • Perez lost his seat at McLaren this year but says he is now a better driver
  • Force India boss predicts Hulkenberg will one day be world champion

(CNN) -- Sergio Perez was announced as Force India's new driver Thursday, but is the Mexican racer already getting itchy feet?

The 23-year-old lost his drive with McLaren less than a month ago and Perez is determined to prove he deserves another chance with a front-running Formula One team.

"I learned a lot at McLaren last year," Perez, who last year finished 11th in the drivers' championship, told CNN.

"McLaren made me a better driver than I was before I joined them. I learned a lot and I'm really looking forward to proving myself in 2014; achieving great things, good results.

"Hopefully we can have a strong car and confirm once again to top teams that I'm the right one for them.

"Hopefully I can do that and have another chance in a top team in a winning car."

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Only fastest will be team number one

For now, the Mexican's immediate future lies with Force India, the British-based team who were ranked as 2013's fifth fastest team before the introduction of new Pirelli tires halfway through the season saw their early season form fade.

The team, overseen by Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya, finished sixth in the team standings with German Adrian Sutil and Scotland's Paul di Resta at the wheel, both of whom are now without a drive in F1.

Next season sees Perez partner highly-rated German Nico Hulkenberg, who is returning for a second stint as a Force India driver.

Read: Hulkenberg returns to Force India

"I'm happy now that I know what I'm doing for next year," said Perez, who took three podiums for Sauber in a breakthrough 2012 season that helped earn him a step up to McLaren as Lewis Hamilton's replacement.

"I'm very excited to join a young team full of energy, full of hunger to prove itself.

"Nico is one of the best drivers out there, there's no doubt about it. He's still looking for a great opportunity for his future and it's the same for me.

"I think we are one of the strongest driver lineups on the grid."

Mallya insisted neither of his 2013 drivers had done anything to warrant the axe but that that the time had come for a change.

I saw at times what Sergio did to my own drivers on the track and I said that this guy meets the criteria I'm looking for
Vijay Mallya, Force India boss

With a major technical rule change on the horizon in 2014 and a smattering of new rules, which include a dose of double points at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, the Indian businessman believes he has chosen the right duo to drive forward a new era for his team.

Read: New double points rule 'a novelty'

"I'm very, very happy with our driver lineup," Mallya told CNN. "I couldn't have done better than Nico and Sergio.

"I've always backed those drivers who have exceptional talent and who are basically gutsy and hungry and Sergio certainly fits that bill.

"I watched him at Sauber and he did an excellent job, no surprise that McLaren picked him up.

"I saw at times what Sergio did to my own drivers on the track and I said that this guy meets the criteria I'm looking for, exceptionally talented, quick and he has fire in his belly."

Hulkenberg has some history with the team, joining them as a reserve in 2011 before being promoted to a race seat in 2012. The 26-year-old then joined Sauber as Perez's replacement last season.

Despite the German being a known quantity, Mallya insists he will not be the team leader in 2014.

"There is no number one or number two or senior and junior, they should have healthy competition amongst themselves," he insisted.

But, if Perez wanted an extra incentive to prove his talents when the new season beings in March, then his new boss might have given it to him.

"Nico Hulkenberg, I have a huge amount of respect for his talent," Mallya mused. "One day I think he will be world champion."

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