Sergio Perez says a podium could be possible on his comeback race if he can get ahead of Max Verstappen at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix.
A positive COVID-19 test result led to Perez missing both of the races held at Silverstone, with Nico Hulkenberg replacing the Mexican until he was cleared to return this weekend in Barcelona. On his first race back, Perez duly qualified fourth on the grid alongside Verstappen and believes he has the car to fight for position if he can get ahead of the Red Bull.
“I am pleased with that comeback,” Perez said. “The conditions haven’t been easy today. Very hot, very windy as well — the final sector (the wind) changing direction through qualifying. It wasn’t an easy session out there but overall a good result for the team.
“I’m definitely (looking) to the front. If we are able to get a good start, get ahead of Max, we may be able to hold him back. It’s not an easy track to pass and the amount of saving and the management we have to do will be extreme.
“It’s a great car. It’s working well in all conditions, in all circuits, so I think it’s a very fast and consistent one … In terms of pace we don’t quite have the pace to beat the Red Bull (and) especially the Mercedes. Who knows if we’re able to get ahead on lap one…”
Perez says he was already having to think about his tires during qualifying and also sees strategic opportunities as he doesn’t believe there is an obvious direction for teams to take on Sunday.
“It felt good but you have to do so much management with the tire already in qualifying. It’s all about the management you do for the final sector. You try to have the tire in a nice condition and if you push too hard in one corner then it’s off — it’s just very hot out there.
“I think there is room for a one-stop but it’s very marginal. It really depends on how your first stint goes, your first laps, what track temperature you have and the wind. The wind has been impacting the balance and the level of sliding — it’s very open for everything tomorrow.
“Nothing is clear on the strategy, so it will be a very interesting race.”