Force India scored a fairy-tale pole at Spa in 2009, but their performance at the Belgian track on Saturday was only marginally less magical as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez mastered the wet conditions to lock out the second row of the grid. However, it could have been all so different, with Perez admitting he was extremely lucky to avoid a big shunt at Eau Rouge early in Q3…
With the rain coming down heavily at the start of the top ten shootout, the Mexican had headed out early with the rest of the runners on slick tyres to try to get the best conditions.
But where the rest of the field quickly retreated to the pits for intermediate tyres, Perez and team mate Ocon soldiered on – and it almost ended in disaster for the former as he suffered a massive moment at the ultra-quick Eau Rouge.
“It was very chaotic,” admitted Perez afterwards. “We went for slicks trying to get a lap in when the track was not so bad. The last sector was quite bad but I felt that if we had the same first and second sector as on my warm-up lap, I could get away with it. But then it just got worse and the lap was just a disaster.
“In a way I’m quite lucky that I’m here [in P4] because the moment into Eau Rouge, not knowing what the track is like… You’re just there trying to feel the grip, and all of a sudden you lose the car. At Eau Rouge when you lose the car, you usually crash. I didn’t.
“It doesn’t look that bad on TV – it was a lot worse in the car! So I’m pleased to be here with this great result.”
That wasn’t the end of the drama for the eight-time podium finisher however.
“Coming back it was completely wet and I ran over the kerb coming back into the pits. Actually my back is hurting a bit from that one. I just lost the rear end. That meant we went out too late, and I only got one lap. But a massive result for the team.”
Perez’s result is his best qualifying effort of the season and equals the best grid slot of his career, the 28-year-old having started P4 on four other occasions. It comes at the end of a tumultuous month for the veteran of 146 Grand Prix starts, during which he played a key role in Force India ultimately emerging from administration as a brand new entrant in the championship with new owners in place.
“I hope we can have some rain tomorrow, because it’s a massive opportunity for the team, especially now the team has zero points,” a buoyant Perez added. "Maybe tomorrow we can get plenty of them!"
“No, I think we should not get too carried away. Tomorrow it’s important to perform. I think we have tremendous pace so we should be very strong out there.”