Red Bull sacrificed Perez for Verstappen in qualifying
By Mat Coch
Saturday 11th September, 2021 - 5:17am
Sergio Perez was sacrificed by Red Bull during qualifying for the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix in order to bolster Max Verstappen’s performance.
The Mexican provided his team-mate with a tow during Qualifying 3, helping improve the Dutchman’s lap time at the cost of his own.
Perez will line up just ninth in Sprint Qualifying as a result, his best lap seven tenths down on Verstappen who will line up third.
“That’s a good team result, Checo has played a key role today,” said team boss Christian Horner.
“He did a great job giving Max the tow and allowing him the benefit of a hole in the air, it probably cost Checo half-a-second, and he should have been higher than where he is.
“So we are pretty happy with where we have finished.”
Red Bull was found wanting against Mercedes in qualifying, with Perez’s efforts to aid Verstappen helped by the fact he in turn was following AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
The two-time race winner only progressed to the final segment of qualifying by 0.03s, recording a time in Q2 slower than Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.
“We definitely struggled in qualifying today,” Perez conceded.
“Tomorrow our aim in the sprint race is to try to gain some positions and come through the field strong, I think this will be difficult with the DRS train though.
“Our long runs looked promising today and a lot of things can happen during a race so we’ll see what happens.”
Verstappen will start third, his best lap three tenths shy of Hamilton in second while only 0.02s up on Lando Norris in fourth.
“It wasn’t the best qualifying session but I think for us this track is always going to be difficult,” the championship leader conceded.
“We struggled a little bit more than we wanted to in FP1, but I think we recovered quite well throughout qualifying.
“I’m happy with third and it would have been unrealistic to hope for more.
“I think for the sprint race maybe we can be closer but you never know around here, so of course we will try and keep the pressure on.”
A second Free Practice session follows on Saturday morning before the 30-minute Sprint Qualifying at 16:30 local time (00:30 AEST).
The finishing order of that session will formalise the grid, though it’s already known that Valtteri Bottas will start from the back on Sunday owing to a power unit change.
“The sprint race tomorrow is going to be exciting and then of course we’ll see what happens in the race on Sunday,” Horner said.
“Max is on the right side of the grid tomorrow and will hopefully pick up a tow into Turn 1, so it’s going to make it a really exciting start, for what is effectively qualifying.
“The announcement has come out that Bottas has taken the engine penalty, so we know he’ll be at the back of the grid on Sunday, and we just have to see how the sprint race pans out.
“When a championship is so tight, and the gains are so marginal it’s about grabbing every point that you can.”