‘We were not expecting this pace’ – Perez hails surprise P7
Sergio Perez has been in fine form since returning from the summer break, helping Force India fight it out at the front of the midfield battle, but he was expecting his rivals to hit back in Singapore. They challenged the Mexican in qualifying on Saturday, but to his ‘surprise’, he came out on top at Marina Bay…
The Silverstone squad have brought a major update for this Grand Prix, including revisions to their front wing plus further aerodynamic changes. But speaking ahead of this weekend, Perez was not predicting major gains, admitting that ‘Singapore is not the greatest track for us’.
So, it was understandable that Perez was delighted in the paddock post-qualifying. The Force India star had just produced a superb performance to put his car seventh on the grid, once again winning the best of the rest tussle, with Haas’ Romain Grosjean his nearest challenger.
“It was quite a surprise,” said Perez. “As you know, we were not expecting this amount of pace. We brought an upgrade but to put four-tenths on the Haas and the Renault - four- and six-tenths is definitely a great lap.
“It just all came together, it was a very strong lap. To get such a perfect lap around here is never easy. You put a lot of stress on the tyres. The team did a fantastic job today.
"The past two races we have been best of the rest with both cars. We have a very long race ahead, a lot of things can happen here. I will be very pleased if we can score points with both cars. Definitely the performance we have shown today is very impressive.
“To get a performance out of today was something very strong and very special.”
Perhaps even more special, given the tough summer the team endured when they were put into administration. But since a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll allowed them to have a fresh start, they’ve been able to focus on their performances on the track.
That new ownership, with the team reborn as Racing Point Force India, saw the team lose their previous 59 championship points from 2018, but Perez and team mate Esteban Ocon have since combined to deliver 32 points, and they sit seventh in the standings.
So does Perez think they can get back to fourth? “We are not thinking that,” he added. “For us we are the same team.
“At the end of the season, we will definitely do the calculation without losing any points. If are best of the rest it will be a great year, but there's still a long way to go.”
Team mate Ocon, who qualified ninth behind Grosjean, was also delighted with how his VJM11 performed on Saturday, admitting they exceeded expectations.
“It appears to be a great car this weekend,” added the Frenchman. “Arriving here, it was of course the target to get into Q3, but it looked difficult compared to last year.
“Last year we had poor pace with the car and this year it seems to be working really well so we are pretty pleased with that. Everything can happen tomorrow so it’s going to be about being opportunistic. I’m going to try to get the maximum position I can, the maximum points.”
Perez, who starts in the top ten in Singapore for the first time in his Formula 1 career, certainly enjoys racing at Marina Bay - he’s scored in all seven of his previous starts. He'll be hoping for a repeat on Sunday.