Perez shocked at Verstappen’s qualifying pace in Sochi, and says P4 was ‘maximum’ for Racing Point
Sergio Perez pulled out a stunning final effort lap at Sochi to take P4 on the grid for Racing Point, and after qualifying the Mexican said he’d squeezed the maximum out of his RP20 package on Saturday – though he admitted to being somewhat surprised at the pace of Max Verstappen who had looked to be in the midfield fight all weekend until a brilliant effort in Q3 saw the Dutchman split the Mercedes for P2.
Despite driving a Racing Point RP20 without the significant aerodynamic update on the car – that having gone to team mate Lance Stroll, after the Canadian’s crash at Mugello left the team short of parts – Perez had been the team’s leading driver in every session of the weekend, at a Sochi track where he scored a podium back in 2015, and where he’s traditionally run well.
And a well-executed final effort in Q3 saw Perez take an impressive fourth place on the grid to match his best starting position of the year, as he pipped the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo by 0.047s.
“I’m pretty pleased with it,” said Perez after ending up 1.042s adrift of polesitter Lewis Hamilton’s time. “It’s definitely the maximum we could achieve today, so I’m happy with that performance. The conditions were very tricky throughout qualifying. The wind was so difficult into Turn 2, just to get it right, you know? It took me the whole qualifying – finally I put it together in Q3 and I’m pleased with the result.”
Perez did confess, however, to being shocked by the speed of Max Verstappen in Q3, the Red Bull driver having looked to have fallen into the clutches of the midfield this weekend before a superb final Q3 run saw him seal a surprise front row spot.
“I don’t know where Max came from,” said Perez. “He was always in the mix a bit with us – and then he went to the other category with the Mercedes! But I think for us, that was the maximum… it was good to beat the Renaults because there were very strong today, so pleased with the result.
“I think we can be strong,” Perez added, when asked about his prospects for the race. “I think with the pace we’ve shown today, I don’t think we’re going to be in the mix with [the frontrunners], but who knows? It’s important to get a good start, clean start, good run into Turn 2 and anything can happen.”