'I finally understand how to drive the car' says Perez after topping FP2 in Azerbaijan
Sergio Perez says he enjoyed his “best Friday of the season” in Azerbaijan after finishing fourth in first practice before going fastest in FP2, with the new Red Bull recruit adding that he finally felt at one with his RB16B car.
After five rounds, the Mexican may have taken more points (with 44) than previous Red Bull hopefuls Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly at this point of the season, but there is still a gap between him and team mate Max Verstappen as the two are split by 61 points in the table. Given his FP2-leading pace, however, Perez explained that he had felt a step change in his understanding of the Red Bull car on the streets of Baku.
He said: “I think we’ve [made] very good progress. After Monaco we did a very deep analysis and today it was like, I finally understand how to drive this car, how I need to drive it, and so on.
“In all regards, I think this is the best Friday of the season, the most complete Friday in terms of data, in terms of how comfortable I feel with the car, and yes, I think we are definitely going to be in the mix – so hopefully tomorrow we are going to get a clean lap, which is important.”
Bar Imola, where Perez qualified second on the grid, the qualifying sessions have not been so kind to him as he started P8 in Spain and P9 in Monaco. With his new found confidence in the RB16B, is he eyeing pole on Saturday?
“That will be the target, of course, but tomorrow is where it matters; we have some work to do overnight to try and get a couple of tenths, and then we can be in the mix,” he replied.
The only incident that hampered Perez in FP2, where he finished a tenth faster than Verstappen, was a helmet issue. It left him scampering back to the pits for new headgear early in the session, but did little to stop him topping the time sheets as he explained: “I just had some air coming through the visor – nothing major. It wasn’t a set-up change!”
Mercedes had Lewis Hamilton finish down in 11th, Valtteri Bottas 16th, in FP2, while Red Bull showed signs that they could increase their slim championship lead over the Silver Arrows this weekend by topping both Friday practice sessions.