After claiming victory in the 2023 Azerbaijan GP Sprint race, Red Bull driver Sergio Perez delivered an ominous warning to teammate Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ahead of the main Grand Prix on Sunday, in that the Mexican believes he can go even faster.
Leclerc started the Sprint on pole, but was easily passed by Perez, who was second on the grid, as the Red Bull had superior straight light speed, especially with DRS. From there, Perez controlled the race and took a straight-forward win in Baku, but feels there was more pace in the car.
“Charles had very, very strong pace initially,” Perez told the press. “And then we have the virtual, then the safety car, luckily no red flags, but overall, at the restart it was important to stay close to Charles.
“DRS [zone] is a lot shorter now, and it was very important to stay within a few tenths to be able to make the move. And once I got that move [done], Charles stayed pretty much there in the DRS. So I was keeping a good eye on him. And then I was able to slowly pull away.
“I think I had more pace than what is showed today, but it’s difficult to know. Because if you use your 100% pace in probably the tyres become a problem. So I think I was just driving to the maximum capacity of the tyres basically.
“I think all cars are much better than this. But it’s all about looking after the tyres.”
Busy F1 weekend
With the new F1 Sprint format introduced in Baku, meaning there is only one practice session over the course of the three day weekend, Perez believes the pressure on teams and drivers is more of an issue than the amount of work needing to be done.
“More than work is just the pressure,” Perez added. “Especially for the top teams, it can only go wrong for you.
“And just making a mistake can be extremely costly throughout the weekend from FP1, especially in a circuit like this, where there is no room for errors.
“The format as well, I felt like after today after doing the sprint qualifying. There’s like four hours waiting and I think he’s just a little bit too much. So probably we have just to review the timings and try to make it a bit more efficient.
“I think what we have in a normal weekend is really exciting and better for fans. And this is what we’ve grown up with, and it’s how it should stay.
“But I’m happy if we have three or four races like this with this sprint format. And just making sure we correct small details like the timing, like the usage of the tyres.”