First came the sprint shootout, next Sergio Perez jokes F1 will introduce a boxing ring

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez speaking to the media after qualifying. Azerbaijan April 2023

Sergio Perez speaking to the media after qualifying. Azerbaijan April 2023

After Saturday’s “fast and furious” sprint shootout, Sergio Perez has joked it won’t be long before F1 sets up a boxing ring and puts “all the drivers together to get a fight”.

Perez will line up in second place for Saturday’s sprint race for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend after the Mexican driver lost out to Charles Leclerc by 0.147s in F1’s inaugural sprint shootout.

Replacing FP2 for sprint weekends, the new sprint shootout is based on F1’s traditional qualifying format with three segments, only they’re a few minutes shorter and the tyre compound is mandated with mediums for SQ1 and SQ2 and softs for SQ3.

The shortened time coupled with cars fuelled to run for the entire session meant there was action from start to finish, “fast and furious” as Perez put it before joking to Sky Sports: “I think it wouldn’t be long before they put a ring in the middle of the track and put all the drivers together to get a fight.”

Jokes aside, the Red Bull driver revealed it was “enjoyable out there.” recommends

Baku GP Sprint shootout: Charles Leclerc makes it two from two in qualy despite crash

Charles Leclerc not foreseeing any consequences after sprint shootout crash

Perez missed out on pole position by 0.147s despite Leclerc giving Red Bull an open goal when he crashed at Turn 5 on his final flying lap of the morning.

Unable to defend his provisional pole time, he could only sit on his stricken Ferrari and wait as the Red Bull team-mates completed their laps.

Perez reckons if he’d managed a lap that was just a “little bit more clear” he could’ve taken it. As it stands he’ll start second ahead of his team-mate Max Verstappen.

“The track was obviously very different,” he explained, “just getting a set on the softs was pretty challenging, getting a read on the medium tyre as well.

“It was a tricky session. In the end I think just having a little bit more of a clean run on my lap will have helped me probably to get pole with Charles hitting the wall.

But while he’s P2 on the grid for the 17-lap sprint race, he is confident his Red Bull RB19 has the better race-pace.

“They’re just a bit stronger than us in our one lap so hopefully this afternoon we are able to close the gap and beat them on race-pace,” he said.

“It will be the target. That will be the target for this afternoon and then also for tomorrow.”

Perez will start Sunday’s grand prix from third place on the grid with Leclerc again on pole with Verstappen P2.