Sergio Perez is confident he will get equal status with Jenson Button at McLaren from the outset, despite his relative inexperience and Button's three-year relationship with the team.
Lewis Hamilton's 2013 Mercedes move opened the door for 22-year-old Mexican Perez to join McLaren after two seasons at Sauber, where he blossomed into an occasional podium finisher this season. He will join McLaren with 37 grands prix under his belt, compared to the 230 Button will have contested by then, in a 13-year Formula 1 career including 14 wins to date and the 2009 World Championship.
Button has also become very well-established at McLaren, but Perez says he sought early assurances from new boss Martin Whitmarsh that he would not be the marginalized outsider in a team focused on Button.
"The first time I spoke with Martin, he told me the team is for both drivers and I will clearly have the same as the other driver next to me," Perez told reporters in Abu Dhabi. "I fully trust Martin and I trust the whole team as well."
Perez acknowledged that Button would be a valuable learning resource for him.
"Jenson has a lot of experience with the team at the moment, so I think I have to work a lot with him to build my relationship with the team and my understanding of the car. He will be an important part of that," he said. "But at the end of the day, he's mainly focused on his job because he also has a lot of pressure.
"I think we're going to be a very good team and a strong team, and we will fight for very big targets next year."
Despite his underdog successes with Sauber, Perez does not think his own potential can truly be judged until he is in a front-running car.
"I think as a young driver the first step is to get into a top team to show if you are able to be a world champion or not," he said. "I think that question for me will be answered next year, because I will have the opportunity to be with the best team in Formula 1 and my target is to win the championship next year."
He conceded that replacing 2008 champion Hamilton, widely regarded as among the greatest of his generation, at McLaren will bring great expectation.
"I rate Lewis very highly. I think Lewis is one of the fastest drivers in Formula 1 right now," Perez said. "I'm coming into those shoes and they will be difficult to fit. But I'm confident that this is the opportunity I was hoping to have.
"I will give my best and I'm sure I will be very good there."