Podium hopes hinge on start, says Perez after qualifying P4 on F1 return
Sergio Perez made a flying return to F1 action after his Covid-19 layoff as he qualified a superb P4 for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix – though he was cautious about his chances of taking Racing Point's first podium of 2020 on race day, insisting any chance of that would depend on his start.
Perez was in tremendous form throughout the one-hour session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, having looked right on the pace from the minute he got back behind the wheel in practice.
He’ll line up fourth on the grid, having beaten team mate Lance Stroll by 0.1s, and was delighted with his effort considering the hot and windy conditions.
“I am pleased with that comeback,” he said. “The conditions haven’t been easy today - very hot, very windy as well. In the final sector, [the wind] changing direction through qualifying. It wasn’t an easy session out there but overall a good result for the team.
“It’s all about the [tyre] management you do for the final sector. You try to have the tyre in a nice condition and if you push too hard in one corner then it's off - it’s just very hot out there.”
Perez admitted Racing Point don’t quite have the pace to beat Red Bull, but reckoned if he could get track position at the start, by leapfrogging Max Verstappen, a podium could be possible.
“In terms of pace we don’t quite have the pace to beat the Red Bull, especially the Mercedes,” he said. "Who knows if we’re able to get ahead on lap one?
“If we are able to get a good start, get ahead of Max, we may be able to hold him back. It’s not an easy track to pass and the amount of saving and the management we have to do will be extreme.”
Such hot conditions suggest a two-stop strategy will be the order of the day for Sunday’s race, though Perez reckons there are other options.
“I think there is room for one-stop but it’s very marginal,” he said. “It really depends on how your first stint goes, your first laps, what track temperature you have and the wind, the wind has been impacting the balance and the level of sliding - it’s very open for everything tomorrow.”
Perez, who suffered mild symptoms when he tested positive for Covid 19, admitted that he was finding the hot conditions physically challenging.
“I think the heat, especially after missing two races with the virus, I am feeling it already,” he said. “It’s very, very hard the conditions and as you know Barcelona is not an easy track physically with the G-loads we get.”