Sergio Perez feels he had a “podium pretty much in the pocket” at the Qatar Grand Prix, where he ultimately finished in P4.
A top-three finish looked unlikely for the Red Bull driver after a poor qualifying session in which he was knocked out in Q2, meaning he’d start the race down in P11.
However, the Mexican made an excellent start, getting into the top five after just 13 laps and putting himself firmly in contention for a sixth podium of the season.
Once Valtteri Bottas picked up a puncture, Checo was the favourite to take P3 but ultimately couldn’t get past the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, with a late Virtual Safety Car period preventing him from closing the gap ahead enough to pass the Spaniard in the last few laps.
While P4 wasn’t a bad result all things considered, he feels should have been one place higher and had P3 in his hands at one point.
“I think we had the podium pretty much in the pocket,” he told Sky Sports after the race.
“I think the Virtual Safety Car… I don’t know if that would have been enough to prevent us from getting Fernando at the end, but it’s a bit of a shame.
“We managed to minimise a bit the damage, but I think we should have been on the podium.”
¡¡¡Lo dimos todo!!!
Al final el VSC nos quitó la oportunidad del podium, ¡pero un 4to lugar fue mejor que nada!
Buenos puntos para el equipo y vamos con todo por las últimas dos. ¡Ya extraño el podium! Vamos @redbullracing #qatargp pic.twitter.com/N8KPbittrA
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) November 21, 2021
Perez was much faster than Alonso throughout the race and looked set to beat him and take P3 when he overtook him shortly after they had both made their first pit-stop.
However, he then changed tyres again while the 40-year-old – as he stayed out for longer on the set he started on – was able to successfully pull off a one-stop strategy, giving him the spot back.
Given how good he is at making tyres last, you’d have thought Red Bull would try to do the same with their driver, but they pitted him too early, making such a strategy impossible to pursue.
He says a one-stop was considered at one point and that the team changed their minds multiple times, but he understands why they did so.
“We were actually changing throughout the race,” he said.
“At some point, we were going for one-stop, then two, then one. I think it wasn’t very clear either for us.
“I think it was understandable from a pit wall point of view that we had to play it safe there.”
Red Bull left Perez with too much work to do
Sergio Perez had a great race but missed out on a podium finish.