Sergio Perez believes he should have taken his maiden Formula 1 pole position at Imola and lamented a final corner mistake that cost him it.
New Red Bull signing Perez had never qualified on the front row, let alone on pole, in his 192 starts prior to the second round of the 2021 season.
The Mexican struggled in Q2 and had to use the soft tyres to advance into the top 10 shootout at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
However, in Q3, he found a turn of pace and ended up falling just 0.035 seconds short of Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time.
“I should have been on pole today,” Perez admitted after qualifying.
“I did a mistake on my final corner. Everything is [still] positive, we just have to make sure that we keep progressing and tomorrow is what matters.”
Perez’s weekend began with a bizarre FP1 incident where he collided with his former team-mate Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.
He struggled throughout practice and the early stages of qualifying before delivering in Q3 and ensuring Max Verstappen was outqualified by a team-mate for the first time since Pierre Gasly did so in Canada in June 2019.
“I have to say well done to the team. Yesterday I did a mistake and I made them work hard during the day, so it’s a good recovery, Perez said.
“Most important is that we’re doing progress. I’ve never expected to be here today after where we were yesterday, we’ve been improving. It’s just important to be P2.”
A dejected Verstappen ended up in third place but believes Red Bull can make it “difficult” for Mercedes gives Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas qualified down in eighth place.
Hamilton and Verstappen will start on the medium tyres while Perez will be on the softs.
“In Q3, I went off in Turn 3 [Tamburello], it was a bit messy,” Verstappen said. “Just not a good lap, but it can’t be good every time.
“We’ll see what went wrong, it was definitely not the easiest in Q3, but still P3 is a good starting position.
“It’s going to be interesting, of course, we have two drivers on different tyres, so let’s see how that will work out. Will try to make it difficult for them.”
Hamilton insisted he was looking forward to the likely ‘two against one’ fights with the Red Bull.
“Oh I love it, I love the challenge, I think it’s great, finally we’ve got the two Red Bulls there,” he said.
“I think it’s going to make strategy harder and be a real challenge tomorrow because they’ve got great race pace.
“I think their pace was a bit stronger in the race [runs] than ours yesterday.”