'It was a shame' – Perez laments Red Bull's call to pit 'too early' after Q2 knockout in Las Vegas
Sergio Perez admitted Red Bull came in too early after the Mexican driver was forced to watch on from the garage as he was knocked out in Q2 in Las Vegas – although Max Verstappen feels his P3 qualifying return was the maximum he could do.
After getting through the first portion of qualifying in 13th, Perez came out earlier than some of his rivals in Q2 and set a lap that was good enough for sixth. However, with four minutes left he was seen being wheeled into the garage as others prepared for their final laps.
This decision to pit the car proved costly as Alex Albon knocked the Red Bull racer out of session, with Pierre Gasly's improvement pushing him to 12th – meaning that Perez has failed to make it into Q3 nine times this season.
Reflecting on his session, Perez – who will start 11th thanks to Carlos Sainz's 10-place grid penalty – said: “It was a very bad session for us. Already in Q1 we were compromised a bit with our run program but come Q2, I think we just finished a little bit too early.
“There was a bit more track evolution there and it was a shame that we just couldn’t make the most of it because we seem to need that little final tenth in it.
“A little bit of a shame but on the other hand there is nothing we can do now. So let’s focus on tomorrow and hopefully we are able to come through the field because we have a fast race car.”
Quizzed on if a Las Vegas podium was still possible, Perez said: “I think so. I think we looked a lot stronger in race pace than we did over a single timed lap... We are starting P12, so we’ve got to understand and learn from what happened yesterday with the tyres and see what we are able to improve for tomorrow.”
Verstappen made it into Q3, but only set one flying lap in the pole position shootout. He finished third, three-tenths behind pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and his Ferrari team mate Sainz – although he will line up second with the Spaniard’s penalty.
“Of course, it’s quite cold out there," said Verstappen when asked how difficult qualifying was in Las Vegas. "It’s quite slippery and of course being on a street circuit as well you try and get as close as you can to the walls but that’s not always straight forward.
“It was enjoyable out there. I do think we maximised today, and I think already the whole weekend so far, we have been lacking a bit of one lap performance and that was also quite clear in qualifying.
"I hope of course tomorrow in the race that we are good on the tyres again and we can work our way forward.”
When questioned on if he was confident about winning the Las Vegas GP, Verstappen replied: “It felt good yesterday. Of course, I would have liked to have a little bit more pace today but of course we know that the points are tomorrow, and it’s going to be a tough one.
“First one here, you know never know there might be Safety Cars and it is of course a very long straight, a lot of racing will happen there, and I hope we are good on the tyres.”