Perez: We live for these moments

Sergio Perez

Victory in the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix comes as a massive confidence boost for Sergio Perez.

The Red Bull driver showed strong pace to remain within touching distance of team-mate Max Verstappen throughout the race, enabling him to capitalise when the Dutchman crashed out late in proceedings.

Surviving a subsequent standing restart, Perez duly collected the second win of his F1 career, and first with Red Bull.

It was not without its concerns though, with the team instructing its driver to stop shortly after the chequered flag with a suspected steering rack issue.

“Getting your first win in Formula 1 is something unbelievable,” the Mexican said.

“But getting your first one with a new family, with a new team is just… I feel like it gets you together more.

“Sharing these moments together is something extremely special.

“We live for these moments, and we are all here just to enjoy those Sundays.”

Perez had lined up just seventh after a qualifying session that did not go to plan, but a good opening lap on Sunday propelled him into contention.

“This weekend, everything was looking great until Q3, run one, where we got it wrong,” Perez said.

“But we didn’t let ourselves panic, and we look forward, and we have a tremendous race.

“This definitely gives us a big boost of confidence to myself and also to my team, to my side of the garage.

“It’s always very, very important.

“We have such a rollercoaster through the seasons, that it’s important to enjoy these moments.

“I don’t have that many wins in my career, but they all have been very special,” he added.

“Today, I have to say that the race throughout was flat out. Very, very stressful mentally.”

His stress levels were not helped ahead of the race restart.

Running second to Verstappen when the Dutchman crashed, Perez inherited the lead and therefore the effective pole position for the two-lap starting-start shootout, all the while nursing a wounded car.

“The team asked me basically not to [weave at the] warm up – I couldn’t warm up the tyres at the at the restart,” Perez explained.

“We were just trying to get until the end.

“It was only two laps to go and it was our race to be lost – we are in the lead, it’s everything to lose and not much to win because we are on pole and we just have to do two laps.

“Getting the start right was a big thing.”

Off the line, Hamilton shot into the lead, but was unable to pull his Mercedes up for the first corner and instead skated into the escape road and out of contention.

“I just tried to brake as late as possible,” Perez said.

“I was like, ‘no way I’m losing this one’, so I do try to brake as late as possible.

“Lewis was on the inside line on the dirty line. Unfortunate for him, but it just shows how vulnerable we are.

“We are operating at such a high level, lap after lap that these things can happen to anyone.”

Perez has climbed to third in the drivers’ championship with 69 points.

With neither Verstappen nor Hamilton scoring, he’s now only 36 points away from the lead of the championship, while Red Bull holds a 27-point advantage in the constructors’ competition.

Formula 1’s next event is the French Grand Prix, on June 18-20.

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