The Sergio Perez ‘trend’ Helmut Marko says was ‘reflected’ in Mexico

Michelle Foster
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez with his special edition Mexican GP helmet.

Helmut Marko is impressed with the pace Sergio Perez showed in Mexico.

Helmut Marko was full of praise for Sergio Perez after he finished just three-tenths down on Max Verstappen in Friday’s practice for the Mexican Grand Prix.

The Red Bull motorsport advisor hopes it’s a “trend” that Perez can continue into qualifying.

It’s not often this season that Perez has been praised by Marko, so much so Lewis Hamilton alluded to “one particular spokesperson” at Red Bull that was making life difficult for the driver with their negative comments.

Helmut Marko hopes Sergio Perez can carry his FP2 pace into qualifying

But after a strong showing in Friday’s practice for his home Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez even Marko was smiling.

Although it was Verstappen who claimed the double on Friday, the reigning World Champion posting a 1:18.686 as the day’s fastest time, Perez wasn’t far off his teammate’s pace in fifth place.

His best time put him just 0.303s down with Marko hoping that bodes well for qualifying.

“Perhaps the most positive thing today is that Checo is only three-tenths behind Max. Hopefully, he can keep this up and we can finish on the podium with both cars this weekend,” he told Motorsport.com.

Marko puts Perez’s pace down to the extra days he spent in the Red Bull simulator ahead of the United States Grand Prix.

“Normally you only spend one day in the simulator, but Checo spent no less than three days in the simulator prior to Austin,” he said.

“You could already see the effect of this during the second stint in Austin when he drove more or less the same lap times as Max.

“Fortunately, it is also reflected here.

“I think it has been quite a long time since he was so close to Max in the free practice. Now we hope, of course, that he can continue this trend into qualifying.”

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As for Perez, his confidence heading into Saturday’s qualifying session was not only boosted by his pace but also the rapturous reception he received from the Mexican fans.

“It’s nice,” he told the official F1 website. “It’s funny when you are in the car you forget where you are but as soon as you are out, there is a lot of attention. It’s good to have so much support from all the fans.”

Just three-tenths slower than Verstappen, Perez revealed his time was set on his second flying lap as he had to abort his first for yellow flags.

“We didn’t have a straightforward day; we get a good read of the softs over a single lap,” he said. “I had a yellow flag on my lap, so I ended up doing it on the second time lap, and not very straightforward.

“Plenty of things to understand, we obviously went with different compounds also to understand them for Sunday. I think overall we are looking in a good position. I think we have a good direction that we need to take.”

Perez believes he’s in the fight for pole position which would be his first since the Miami Grand Prix.

“Yeah definitely,” he said. “I mean my lap wasn’t really tidy. [I] nearly went off in the final corner, so I think there is good potential. Things are looking good, but as we know tomorrow is going to be really tight.”

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