Sergio Perez has lauded his fifth-place qualifying effort for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but the two-time Baku podium-getter says standing on the rostrum at this year’s race will be tough.
The Racing Point driver has fashioned himself into a Baku specialist. He’s the only driver to have finished on the Azerbaijan podium more than once — first at the debut event in 2016; then again at last year’s GP — and another big result could be on the cards for the Mexican from his fifth-place grid spot, the highest position among the midfielders.
But, while Perez was pleased to be leading the tightly contested midfield pack, he remained cagey on the team’s expectations for a result.
“It was a very good qualifying and a really good job from the whole team in terms of strategy and thinking where and when to go and how to react,” he said. “It is a great starting place, but we have a long race ahead of us tomorrow. Finishing — that is the most important thing to push for tomorrow.
“A lot of things normally happen in Baku, so I think if we are able to finish the race, we should score plenty of points.”
Asked specifically about his chances of claiming a third podium finish in four races, Perez said anything could happen in Azerbaijan provided her makes it to the end of the race unscathed.
“The last years if you told me [I would finish on the podium], I wouldn’t have believed you,” he explained. “Last year I struggled massively with the car and we still made it to the podium.
“This year is a little bit better, so I think this year we’ve done an incredible job — all the team together — so I am very pleased today.
“It is going to be tough with some very fast cars around us tomorrow. Leclerc should come through easily and Gasly, But it is a long race.
“Anything can happen tomorrow, but most important is to finish, and then we’ll see where.”
If Perez were to make it back onto the podium, it would be as much down to driver as it would be circumstance, for while the Baku City Circuit’s unique layout combining extreme speeds and slippery streets has proved to be a recipe for thrills and spills, it also puts the onus on the driver to remains calm and calculated in the cockpit.
It’s ultimately up to the driver to make it to the finish in a typically high-attrition race.
“It’s a drivers circuit,” Perez said. “This track is one where the walls are calling the drivers to crash all the time, so it is important to stay out and stay cool, to stay consistent and committed.
“You are on the limit all the time here. A lot of drivers make mistakes, so it is important to be precise here and not make too many mistakes.”