Imola qualifying: Red Bull’s Sergio Perez reacts to beating Max Verstappen, who laments ‘disaster’

Sergio Perez said he had mixed emotions after Emilia-Romagna GP qualifying despite beating Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, with the Mexican sure he should have beaten Lewis Hamilton to pole position.

Verstappen, meanwhile, lamented a qualifying “disaster” after making errors on both his critical Q3 laps at Imola.

Red Bull secured second and third on the grid in Saturday’s qualifying – although the order of their drivers was somewhat of surprise with Perez, the new signing for 2021 who has been off the pace all weekend, ahead of Verstappen, the team’s star driver and presumed title contender.

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It was the first time Verstappen had been beaten on merit by a team-mate in qualifying since way back in 2018.

But Perez, who missed out on pole by 0.035s with his final lap, still wanted more.

“I should have been on pole today,” Perez admitted. “I did a mistake on my final corner.”

Verstappen, on the other hand, says he made uncharacteristic errors on both of his Q3 laps, the first of which was 0.091s slower than Hamilton’s pole time and the second giving him just a 0.004s improvement.

“Q3 was a disaster,” Verstappen told Sky F1.

“Even in the first lap my first sector wasn’t good so I knew there was a lot of time there, so I pushed a little bit more but then ran wide at the exit of Turn 3, cut the grass a bit. It wasn’t very lovely for the lap time.

“But sometimes that happens, you can’t be perfect or near-perfect all the time. There are always things you can do better even when you say it’s a perfect lap. But today was far from perfect.

“I was shocked myself that I had a lap like that because I would say I have been very good for a very long time in qualifying. Today was… not good.”

How did Perez improve and can Red Bull pressure Hamilton?

Perez had been behind Verstappen in every 2021 session so far – including every Bahrain and Imola practice – but, out of nowhere, turned up at the sharp end of the timesheets right at the end of Q3.

Even the Mexican would like to know how exactly that happened.

“I’m happy and motivated but I know I have a lot of work to do to understand why we are there, what we have improved,” Perez told Sky F1’s Anthony Davidson at the SkyPad. “I think I’m not there, I’m not there with the car.

“It’s the amount of time it takes me to get there, I should be right there from Practice One but I’m not there in terms of consistency with the car. It just shows how much work I put in, it’s a great result and great boost in confidence.”

While both Red Bull’s drivers had reasons to be slightly miffed after qualifying, the team are in a great position to pressure pole-sitter Hamilton as Valtteri Bottas was only eighth in the other Mercedes.

“I think we had great pace in the long run, I think with the steps that I made with the car we should be having pretty strong race pace,” added Perez, who will start Sunday’s race – live at 2pm on Sky Sports F1 – on the soft tyre as opposed to Hamilton and Verstappen on the mediums.

“Definitely it favours the soft for the start. If I get a good launch I should be leading into Turn One.”

If that happens, Red Bull’s strategy would open up completely.

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