Perez 'thought this could be my day' in US GP qualie

Pole for Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B and 3rd for Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 23.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, United States Grand Prix, Austin,
© XPB 

Sergio Perez narrowly missed out on pole position for the United States Grand Prix after a late rain shower took the edge off his final run in qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

Perez was left 0.224s off the pace of his Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen, and just 0.015s away from bumping Lewis Hamilton off the front row of the grid at what is generally regarded as one of Mercedes' strongest venues.

The Mexican driver had been top in two of the three practice sessions leading into qualifying, and looked on course to take pole until a late shower moved across the circuit and compromised his final lap.

“We were really close in that final lap,” Perez told US motor sport star and commentator Danica Patrick in parc ferme after the chequered flag.

“I knew that there was some time to find so I thought this could be my day. Unfortunately I didn’t put it all together in the end when it counted.

“My final attempt wasn’t as as good throughout the lap," he admitted. “I think the rain hit me too hard in the final sector.

“I was the last car on track. I felt it did cost me a bit, especially 13 and 15, mainly into 15," he said. "I just couldn’t find any grip. Whether that was the increase of rain, or we didn’t find any grip.

"I improved through the first sector quite a bit, but I wasn’t able to just keep it progressively," he explained. “There were spots of rain, I lost a bit of grip in two corners and I could just see my delta going off.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB16B. 23.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 17, United States Grand Prix, Austin

"There was quite a lot of rain coming in, probably a bit of confidence going knowing it’s a bit wet. But I felt like I lost quite a bit of time there, was quite a bit faster and just lost my lap time through there."

Although Perez marginally improved his time from 1:33.180s to 1:33.134s with the last tun, it left him off the front row for tomorrow's start. But he was far from downhearted when it came to his prospects for the race.

"I think we did a great job as a team," he said. "I still think we are in a good position. It’s going to be a pretty long race tomorrow and I think there will be plenty of opportunities.

"[I'm] not too concerned about the qualifying, the qualifying position isn't too relevant," he added. "There will be a lot of degradation on these tyres, and I'm looking forward to it."

Perez promised "to maximise every single opportunity" in the race, adding: "Hopefully we can bring a 1-2 for the team tomorrow!"

"It was probably Checo’s best qualifying this year in normal conditions," said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "We are really pleased with that.

"Checo had provisional pole and Max responded and managed to improve, so phenomenal performances from both our drivers."

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