Perez rues missed pole shot due to fuel issue

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Perez rues missed pole shot due to fuel issue

Formula 1

Perez rues missed pole shot due to fuel issue

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Sergio Perez was in a pole-getting mood on Saturday afternoon in Baku but was left to lament a fuel problem that left the Red Bull driver unable to compete with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Perez and Leclerc had traded quickest time throughout practice and qualifying in Azerbaijan, and the pole shootout was set to go down to the wire when Red Bull Racing realized it had under-fueled the Mexican’s car ahead of the final runs. It meant Perez had to be held in his garage for refueling, and by the time he rejoined the track, he had lost touch with the pack and had to set his lap without the benefit of the powerful slipstream down 1.4-mile straight.

Ultimately missing out to Leclerc by 0.282s, the Mexican was left to wonder what could have been partway through a particularly competitive weekend.

“It was not an ideal qualifying, because at the end we just had a problem with the engine,” he said. “We couldn’t turn it on. That meant I was basically on my own, and [the slipstream] is very powerful around here.

“Who knows if it was enough for pole, but certainly we lost a few tenths. I think Charles has done a very good lap.”

But Perez regardless was reveling in his own strong form. Fresh off the back of his victory in Monaco two weeks ago and the subsequent announcement of his two-year deal to stay with Red Bull Racing, the 32-year-old arrived in Baku riding a wave of confidence.

He’s aided not only by a car that’s better suited to his driving style but also a street circuit that’s allowing him to play to his strengths. He’s beaten teammate Max Verstappen in all four of the weekend’s sessions so far.

His faith in the machine was evident throughout qualifying, and at the start of the pole shootout in particular Perez brushed up against the walls several times as he sought to stamp his authority on the session.

“When it gets to Q3, run one is when you go balls-out and it was a little bit too much,” he said. “I hit the wall a couple of times. Luckily we managed to survive, which is the key here really.”

Survival will be the key to Perez wining back-to-back races this season and in Azerbaijan. No driver had taken more than one pole position here before Leclerc, and no driver is yet to win the Baku race more than once, which is indicative of the unpredictability generated by this circuit.

Perez, who was a beneficiary of late-race chaos last season, said he intends to play the long game on Sunday in pursuit of victory against Leclerc.

“Tomorrow is a very long race, so we just have to make sure we are there,” he said, “At any point you can make a mistake and that’s it.

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