Racing Point Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez believes he could have fought for pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix had he not lost time replacing a damaged front wing.
Perez had a tumultuous third qualifying session, which started just as rain hit the previously dry track. Whilst the rain was considerable in some sectors, it was relatively dry in others, and Perez was one of the few drivers who set out with slick tyres. This immediately proved to be a bad decision though and, as he hit Eau Rouge and started up Raidillon, he lost grip – coming incredibly close to hitting the barriers at full speed. Danger averted, he returned to the pits for wet weather tyres.
Having changed to intermediate tyres he had another attempt at a fast lap, though saw his efforts once again come to nothing as he ran wide at the final corner – missing the apex and jumping over the sausage kerb, landing heavily on his front end and damaging his front wing. This required another pit stop to repair the damaged wing.
Having fixed the damage and set out for a third and final time, he eventually finished the session in fourth, over three and a half seconds behind pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and four hundredths of a second behind team-mate Esteban Ocon.
Despite the time difference to first place, Perez believes he could have fought for pole position if time had allowed just one more lap.
“I am very happy about today’s result and what a tremendous qualifying it has been!
“So many emotions are going through my head – it has been a really difficult session, which makes the result even sweeter. It’s a great result for the team – for the new owners, the old ones who built the team to what it is now, and everyone who works so hard every day.
“The rain made things stressful and we had to take some risks. We chose to stay out on slicks because the track was dry in sectors one and two, but as soon as we did the rain picked up quickly. I had a massive moment in Eau Rouge and I was lucky to stay out of the wall, but I was really expecting the worst – there’s no small crash there.
“We had to come in for inters and I locked my rears at the final corner. I jumped on the kerb, damaged my front wing and the time we took to change it meant I only had the chance to do one lap on inters. Perhaps with one more lap I would have been able to fight for pole position, but we can still be very happy about P4. We are in a great position for tomorrow and we can put up a strong fight in the race. At the very least, we are targeting a lot of points – but you can never make predictions in Spa.”