Sergio Perez says he won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on “pure pace” and would have beaten his team mate even without the Safety Car period which aided his strategy.Max Verstappen took the lead of the race early on while Perez moved up into second place. Perez took the lead by making his mandatory pit stop during a Safety Car period, while Verstappen lost time coming in earlier.
However Perez is confident he would have won the race even without the Safety Car playing in his favour. “Yes, I think I had the pace on Sunday in Baku to win the race,” he told media including RaceFans in Miami.
Perez closed on Verstappen shortly before the leader pitted, and suspects he would have been quick enough to overtake him later in the race. “Yes, I think so,” he said when asked.
“I think on that first stint on that lap if he wouldn’t have pitted, you never know, but I was quite close on the DRS but he was struggling already with the tyres. So I think I would have got him.”
He doesn’t believe Red Bull timed Verstappen’s pit stop to prevent the world champion being passed by his team mate on-track. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I think they pitted Max because they thought that he was struggling with his tyres.
“People behind were pitting so it was just a reaction to probably people behind doing the pit stops. So I think they want to make the best strategy for both cars as possible.”
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Later in the race Verstappen was advised how his team mate was managing his tyres. Perez said that showed he was able to get more out of the car on the day.
“Obviously when you when you win the race on pure pace, you’ve done better than your team mate,” he said. “I’m sure that Max and his team are going to have a look at that and make sure they understand.
“That’s why it’s important also from our side that we are able to understand those weaknesses.”
After the race Red Bull team principal Christian Horner pointed out Perez has only won on for them on street circuits so far. But Perez believes the gains he has made with Red Bull’s car this year will transfer to other tracks.
“In the street circuits you have to be very strong in the race, very strong with the pressure,” he said. “You have to be able to handle the pressure and you are not able to make mistakes. If you do small mistakes normally, in a normal circuit, you can get away with it. But in the streets, you cannot get away with those mistakes.
“I think probably I have more confidence than others come race day on the street races, I don’t know. But at the end of the day, the way I won in in Baku on pure pace, it doesn’t matter if it’s a street circuit or a permanent circuit. If I’m able to do that in Baku, I can do that anywhere.”
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On several occasions early last year Perez had to allow Verstappen to overtake him when ordered by the team. He is grateful Red Bull are allowing them to fight – for now.
“I do believe that the team will give me as much support as they do with Max and is what they’ve been doing since pretty much the start of season,” said Perez. “So I think we have to appreciate that a lot from Red Bull because it would be very easy for Red Bull to implement team orders from lap 20 and look after the cars and make sure we have very reliable cars and so on.
“But in Jeddah and in Baku we pushed flat-out throughout the race. In Baku we hit the wall a few times, both Red Bull drivers, and that was only because we were so much on the limit. It went right but it could easily be damage and we could easily have a problem.”
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