Sergio Perez has declared that his charge to fourth place in last week’s Monaco Grand Prix has energised his season and expects it to provide a “big boost” for the next round in Azerbaijan.
Perez wasn’t able to keep up with his Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen in practice and qualifying and started from a disappointing ninth on the grid.
But a strong race saw him finish in fourth place, having harried Lando Norris all the way to the finish for the final podium spot.
“I’m happy that in the end we managed to have a good result, especially given where we qualified after a poor Saturday,” he said.
“It was very tough mentally. As always, Monaco is just hard to keep the car out of the walls whilst being on the limit. Especially you need to know when to push and when not to, that is the key!
“The result on Sunday is a big boost for the team and we’re definitely looking forwards to keeping it up there. But we cannot forget that it’s only race five of the season and there’s still a very long way to go.
“I’m really looking forward to Baku and I hope we can put a strong qualifying together, because we’ve proved that our race pace is right up there with the best. We just have to improve our Saturdays and then we should be fine.”
Perez is one of a number of drivers to have changed teams over the winter, and it’s been an unusually tough transition because of the lack of pre-season track time.
“It’s a very unique season in that regard,” Perez told The Race website. “Drivers changing teams, normally in the past, hasn’t been such a big thing.
“This year with so many variables out there, it has just made it harder. Some drivers have done a better job of it than others,” he said. Changing compounds, changing wings, changing weather, those kind of things.
“I’m not the only one out there who is struggling with a new car. I haven’t forgotten how to do the job, but it’s just unfortunately taking me longer than I would like.
“When you know a car like the back of your hand it’s very easy to adapt to those situations,” he admitted. “I’m not fully at home with the car yet, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel.
“In Imola I managed to put it on the second row in my second race,” he pointed out. “I wasn’t expecting that [so soon] at such a difficult track, but the progression hasn’t come on Saturdays.”
With so little testing time available this season, Perez said that doubleheaders like next month’s back-to-back events in Austria are especially important. “Going to more circuit places, especially Austria, doing two weekends, that will really speed up my learning.”
But even at this early stage, his contribution to the points standings has helped put Red Bull ahead of Mercedes in the constructors championship while Verstappen leads the drivers’ title battle. But Perez certainly isn’t getting carried away just yet.
“It doesn’t change anything,” he insisted. “We have to stay realistic and know that it’s race five of the season.
“It doesn’t matter where we are now, it only matters where we end up at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi. We need to keep our heads down and continue working as hard as we have been doing in the past months.”