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Jeddah pole-sitter Perez hoping to keep ‘lion’ Alonso at bay as he predicts how much Verstappen can recover from P15

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 18: Pole position qualifier Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull

Sergio Perez expressed satisfaction over leading Red Bull’s qualifying charge at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in the absence of team mate Max Verstappen, but has tipped the reigning world champion to fight back on race day.

With Verstappen sidelined in Q2 by a driveshaft issue, Perez picked up the baton and clocked a 1m 28.265s during the early stages of Q3 for provisional pole, a time that ultimately beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso to P1.

READ MORE: Perez storms to pole for Saudi Arabian GP as Verstappen suffers dramatic Q2 exit

Perez abandoned his second attempt after a moment at Turn 4, admitting “there should have been a little bit more to come” given the track evolution, but nonetheless had enough in hand for P1 and revelled in back-to-back poles in Saudi Arabia.

“In Jeddah, I enjoy it a lot. When you have a good car that you can push around this place, you really feel the car coming alive. Getting a clean, good lap, it feels… you know when you nail it,” said Perez after qualifying.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 18: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Red Bull were down to one car for Q3 in Saudi Arabia after Verstappen hit technical trouble

“That Q3 run one was quite a good jump. I had a good jump from all my previous laps [in qualifying], and that meant I was able to get the pole.”

With Verstappen starting back in 15th, Perez was asked what he expects from his team mate on race day – the Mexican setting his sights on “maximum points” for Red Bull despite the setback.

MUST-SEE: Pole favourite Verstappen struck by ‘very annoying’ mechanical issue in Saudi Arabian qualifying

“I think we certainly have a good race car. I think it’s probably where we’re a little bit better than the competition,” he commented.

“So many things can happen in a race, but I do expect [Max] to come back. Our race pace was very strong on Friday, so we’ll see.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 18: Pole position qualifier Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull

Perez picked up the pieces to claim the second pole of his F1 career – again in Saudi Arabia

“Hopefully for the team we’re able to come back and get maximum points. These weekends are very important; the competition is only going to get closer, so to be able to [get] maximum points will be important.”

As for whether he’s concerned about Verstappen arriving in his mirrors, Perez vowed to focus on his own race, which will begin alongside Alonso, who moves onto the front row after Leclerc’s engine penalty is applied.

FACTS AND STATS: Perez matches Alesi, as Alonso grabs best Aston Martin start since the 1950s

“I’m not going to approach the race tomorrow thinking about Max. First of all, I have to make sure I’m able to keep the lead on the initial laps. If I’m able to do that, to keep this lion [Alonso] behind, it will be good,” he summed up.

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