Sergio Pérez will start on the front row of the grid for the first time in his career in Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, although the Mexican believes that but for a mistake, it could have been pole position.
The Red Bull Racing driver was only 0.035 seconds adrift of Lewis Hamilton’s pole time, but Pérez feels mistake at the final corner cost him the chance of beating the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver to pole.
Pérez at least managed to beat team-mate Max Verstappen in Qualifying, the first time the Dutchman has been out-qualified in the dry and without penalties since Daniel Ricciardo left the team three years ago.
“What a massive result for us, knowing that I could win the race tomorrow is definitely a good feeling,” said Pérez. “There are a lot of positives to take out of today but I made a little mistake at the final turn, I was so close to pole.
“I can’t believe this is my first Red Bull start on the grid, as I started from the pit lane in Bahrain and it’s from the front of the grid! It just shows the amount of work we have put into this as a Team is paying off.”
Pérez says it is too early to get carried away as the points are handed out on Sunday, but Red Bull have a great chance of displacing Mercedes and taking their first victory of the season.
“Looking to the race tomorrow, Max and I are of course on different strategies, I am starting on the softs and Max is on the mediums so I think we have a good race ahead of us, especially as we’ve been able to apply the pressure to Mercedes,” said the Mexican.
“It was a great result for us today but we can’t get too carried away, I know that there is a lot of work to be done and it’s important that we keep making good process.”
“You can’t do a perfect or near perfect lap all the time” – Max Verstappen
Like Pérez, Verstappen felt he had the pace to beat Hamilton in Qualifying, with a mistake a turn three on his final flying lap proving costly as it lost him enough time to finish only third fastest.
The Dutchman had topped final practice earlier in the day and was aiming for a third consecutive pole position, but it was not to be as he was forced to settle for third, albeit only 0.087 seconds away from Hamilton’s best.
“It was not a clean lap in Q3,” said Verstappen. “I made some mistakes and when you go off on a qualifying lap it is never going to be good.
“The first sector of the first lap wasn’t good in the wake of another car so I knew there was a lot of time there and I pushed a bit more on the second lap but I ran wide on the exit of Turn 3 and cut the grass a bit which wasn’t very lovely for the lap time.
“Sometimes these things happen and you can’t do a perfect or near perfect lap all the time. There are always things you can do better even when you say it’s a perfect lap but today was far from that. I shocked myself that I had a lap like that as it’s been a long time since I felt this way after qualifying.”
Verstappen praised Pérez for his efforts in getting into second place, and he hopes having two cars fighting what appears to be just one car from Mercedes with Valtteri Bottas down in eighth, Red Bull can fight for victory on Sunday.
“Checo did a great job so congratulations to him,” said the Dutchman. “We have a good race car and tomorrow is where you score points.
“There are a lot of factors involved in the race like the weather and the start but for the Team it’s always good to have two cars up there, so I hope me and Checo can make it more difficult for Mercedes to decide on a strategy.”