No one has scored more podiums in Azerbaijan than Sergio Perez – and the Mexican did his chances of scoring another one no harm with a brilliant run to fifth in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Racing Point may have started 2019 languishing behind their midfield rivals in terms of qualifying pace, but in Baku they led the charge, with Perez keeping his cool in a session which saw many others - including team mate Lance Stroll - tag the barriers.
However, despite his lofty qualifying position – his best since Belgium last year - Perez hasn’t got the champagne on ice just yet.
“We certainly have a good track position but we have to stay realistic,” he said. “It’s a long race tomorrow, I think first we have to finish and then see.”
“Today I think the team has done a fantastic job. It was such a long qualifying, the track dropping in temperature massively made things very hard and I think the team on the pit wall did a tremendous job with that, maximising the full potential of the car and taking the opportunity there today.”
Perez has picked up five points so far this season, with consecutive top ten finishes in Bahrain and China. Making it three in a row, he said, would require ultimate concentration: “We’ve seen today already some drivers making mistakes. Conditions were similarly difficult [in qualifying].
"It’s quite easy to make those mistakes, especially as lap-by-lap the track is changing massively so a little lock-up here can put you in the wall.”
Perez, who has now outqualified Stroll in four straight races, starred on the streets of Azerbaijan in 2018. Recovering from early contact with then-team mate Esteban Ocon which dropped him to the back of the field, Perez’s recovery drive saw him move up to seventh. He then moved into podium contention after incidents involving the Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel.
As he hunts for a ninth career podium finish, Perez will be hoping for similar fortune in 2019….