Sergio Perez says only a mistake prevented him from being on pole position for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, after securing the first front-row start of his career.
The Mexican is taking part in just his second race weekend for Red Bull and showed a clear improvement the more track time he had at Imola, although he used the soft tire to set the fastest time in Q2 while the Mercedes drivers and teammate Max Verstappen progressed on mediums. With everyone on the same compound in Q3, Perez pulled out an excellent final lap to qualify second on the grid and end just just 0.035s off pole position, and while excited by his level of performance, he rued an error at the final corner.
“First of all, I have to say well done to the team,” Perez said. “Yesterday I did a mistake and I made them work hard during the day, so it’s a good recovery. But most important is we’re showing progress. I never expected to be here today — where we were yesterday we’ve been improving but it’s just important. To be P2… I should have been on pole today. I did a mistake on my final corner, so I think it’s very positive but we just have to make sure that we keep progressing and tomorrow is what matters.
“It was a very, very good session from our side. Obviously every time we are in the car we are making big steps, so it was a good session in that regard because every time I am driving this car I am learning something new and that’s pretty good.
“If there is a place you don’t want to come in your second race with a new team it’s probably Imola — it’s one of the most difficult circuits around to put a lap together. The limit is so narrow, you are millimeters all the time from the grass. To be here, in my second race is a pretty good step from our side, but I think at the moment the most important (thing) is we understand why today we went quick and we can keep that level of consistency.”
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Explaining why he was able to make such a significant improvement as the weekend went on, Perez pointed to his Red Bull teammate after Verstappen was outqualified for the first time since 2018.
“I think just understanding where to get the time. I have a pretty good reference in Max — he is getting 100% out of the car all the time — and just adapting myself to it. Learning, step by step. I wasn’t expecting myself to be here at the moment as I feel I am miles away from where I should be. Things are not coming naturally yet, so it’s a good boost in confidence, not just for myself but also the team, to make them feel they have both drivers and we can push the team forward together, that’s the important bit.
“Hopefully from here on we keep that progress, and tomorrow do another step in race performance — it’s the target, step by step, not in a hurry. I know where I should be, but certainly it’s positive to be up here just in my second race in the team.”