Perez targeting perfect return – with a podium

Jon Wilde
Sergio Perez PA

Sergio Perez gave his F1 job prospects another boost when securing an excellent second-row start for the Russian Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez is aiming for the perfect return from his coronavirus absence – a podium finish at the Spanish Grand Prix.

The Mexican is back in action at the Circuit de Catalunya after missing the two previous F1 races at Silverstone having tested positive for COVID-19, with Nico Hulkenberg taking his place in the Racing Point team.

But Perez, who suffered from only mild symptoms, showed the time off had not blunted his competitiveness as he secured P4 on the grid – with his team-mate Lance Stroll only one place behind him.

The ‘Pink Panthers’ were particularly strong in Sector 1, where they set the fastest times of all in Q3, and that could help them in the race if they can make strong starts – potentially towards a top-three finish.

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“I think it’s a good return, I’m really happy with P4 – also for the team because both cars are inside the top five,” said Perez. “I think tomorrow is a good opportunity to score strong points.

“I found a good rhythm in qualifying but it was really hard, especially in Q2 with the wind in the final sector – it was very inconsistent, so putting the lap together in the final sector and with a high track temperature, it wasn’t an easy day.

“It was extremely hot out there and also a physical challenge having missed the last two weekends.

“Podium will be the target tomorrow. We will try to push Max (Verstappen, P3) a lot. His pace was very strong on Friday in the long runs but we will try to push hard.”

Stroll was also understandably satisfied and said: “It was a great job by the whole team today. We were really competitive throughout the whole of qualifying and the car was hooked up.

“A bit frustrated that there was a little bit I left on the table in Q3 with a small mistake in Turn 10 – there could have been another tenth in there. But that’s qualifying – you’re always looking for every tenth.

“All in all, very happy with P4 and P5 for the team – it puts us in a good position for tomorrow to go and try to grab us some good points.”

On his own podium prospects, the Canadian added: “It will be tough. I expect Verstappen to have good pace and of course the two Mercedes.

“And I expect Alex (Albon, Red Bull) to have good pace behind us – he demonstrated that last week at Silverstone. We’ll see what happens, but we’ll just run our race, try to get a good start and go from there.”

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