Sergio Perez's mangled Sauber following his crash during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix last year that led to the Mexican being disqualified. Getty
Mexican Sergio Perez made a fresh start on the streets of Monaco on Thursday, roaring past the scene of a qualifying accident that last year landed the Sauber driver in hospital and out of the race.
Perez was one of the first to test the track in the opening practice session in brilliant sunshine after telling reporters he had a clear mind and was looking forward to racing in the principality.
"To be back here is unbelievable. After such an accident I had last year, it's really great. I'm very happy to be back, and I'm so looking forward to the race," said the 22-year-old.
The Mexican missed what would have been his first Monaco Grand Prix and the following race in Canada as he battled with lingering concussion.
He was not fully recovered for some races after that but has made a great start to 2012, finishing runner-up in Malaysia in March. He is currently 10th overall in the Formula One standings with 22 points.
"It's my favourite track. I always believe a driver can make a difference here, and hopefully it will be the perfect weekend for us," Perez said of Monaco, the slowest circuit on the calendar but a thrill for drivers and spectators alike with the cars skimming the metal barriers and roaring past the yachts bobbing in the harbour.
"I will never forget the accident, but I will try to go as quick as possible," added the Mexican, who was unconscious for several minutes after his car slammed into barriers at the tunnel exit last May.
"Last year I was in a great position. I could have had a great race, but I was very unlucky with the accident. This year I think, with the car we have and being so close to the top, our target has to be to fight for the podium."
Race organisers have modified the track since Perez's accident, resurfacing part of it to remove bumps and moving a crane position to add nearly 15 metres more space in the runoff area at the chicane.
"I've seen it and I think they've done a good job," he said of the new asphalt.