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Perez says Red Bull were 'one lap too late' in fitting slicks as he qualifies P9, with Verstappen to start last

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Sergio Perez said that he switched to slick tyres one lap late in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix, which gave him just one flying lap in dry conditions – something he blamed for his ninth-place qualifying performance at Sochi. As for team mate Max Verstappen, who finished qualifying without completing a lap, Red Bull’s championship leader explained why he thought it a “waste” to run on Saturday afternoon.

With P9 in qualifying in Russia, Perez has not started in the top-five since Hungary – a race from which he retired – and tricky conditions didn’t help his cause on Saturday. The Mexican said he’d have preferred to switch from intermediate to soft tyres earlier in Q3 as the circuit was drying. That was a move that helped Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and George Russell qualify in the top three.

READ MORE: Norris revels in maiden pole but says Sochi is 'probably the only place I wouldn’t want to start P1'

“Yes, it was all about getting that timing [to get] heat into the tyres. That’s something we didn’t do,” he said. “We just lacked [slicks] probably a lap too late because we went for a prep lap on the first set and that just put us behind, and in the end when we tried the slick tyres, we had one lap really to be able to put it together.”

“Hopefully tomorrow we are able to recover but it’s going to be a tricky race and just yes, anything can happen really. It wasn’t an ideal afternoon today,” he concluded.

Max Verstappen focused on Sunday's race after short qualifying run at Russian GP

Verstappen, on the other hand, was prepared to start last on the grid well before qualifying began as Red Bull announced he would take a raft of new power unit components – and a raft of penalties as a result. Unlike the other drivers who will take new power units and penalties for the race – Nicholas Latifi and Charles Leclerc – Verstappen didn’t run a lap in qualifying, and explained why.

READ MORE: ‘It was 100% my fault’ – Hamilton shoulders blame for pit lane crash that cost him shot at Sochi pole

“Yes, we decided not to do too many laps because I would start last anyway so it would be a waste of laps on the material,” he said. “It was fine, the track, we went out on inters, the grip was good,” was his verdict on the wet but quickly drying surface.

“It’s always tricky because actually this year the midfield is a bit closer but we’re going to give it a go and I hope of course have a lot of fun out there,” concluded the Dutchman, who leads the standings but will see championship rival Lewis Hamilton starting fourth tomorrow.

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