It was supposed to be a chaotic and calamitous race filled with safety car periods. Yet Baku became just the second race of the season to be absent of a safety car period. Our chosen TOP DOG really had to work hard for a tremendous result for his team. Well done…
From the moment he trundled down the pit lane in FP1 on Friday, Perez looked like a podium threat. He would finished the inaugural session on Baku’s streets in a rather prophetic third place. Only the two Mercedes cars were ahead of him. Given the budget Force India have to work with it was some seriously im-perez-ive stuff.
Unfortunately for Checo he almost threw away all the hard work during Saturday’s third practice session. A kiss with a fist from the concrete wall left the car in need of a new gearbox. A five-place penalty would leave Perez on the back foot heading into an all important qualifying session.
A few years ago perhaps Perez would have let his error overshadow the rest of his weekend. Not anymore. A wonderfully mature and gutsy lap in Q3 put Perez in provisional pole. A slightly delayed red flag for Lewis Hamilton’s bump with the wall gave Nico Rosberg the chance to snatch pole away with seconds to spare.
As it was Perez would of course fall to seventh thanks to the penalty but the speed was there and everyone but Mercedes, who seemed untouchable, knew he’d be a threat on race day.
A great start saw Perez immediately jump ahead of Felipe Massa and Daniil Kvyat. Terrible tyre life from the Red Bull of Ricciardo soon saw Perez slip up to fourth in pursuit of the Ferrari duo. Continuing his reputation as Formula One’s ‘tyre whisperer’, Perez sauntered up to the back of Kimi Raikkonen by lap twenty-eight.
Perez even had the luxury of knowing Raikkonen was due to be penalised by five seconds upon the conclusion of the race for a pit-lane entry infringement. Third place was his as long as the gap to the Ferrari remained under those five seconds. As it was Raikkonen ended up letting the Force India breeze by on the final tour, Checo would get his glory on the road.
It is well-deserved for the team because they have done an amazing job. All my boys fixed the car from yesterday, so very pleased. It’s only the eighth race and we’ve done two podiums already. It’s been an incredible year so far.
The result meant Perez has now scored two podiums in three races. Of Force India’s five Formula One podiums he has scored four. Team-mate Hulkenberg has yet to grab his maiden podium. Today also saw Perez match fellow Mexican Pedro Rodríguez’s record of seven podiums.
It just further underlines that Perez is perhaps the most underrated driver currently on the grid and deserves another shot in a top team. For it would be such a shame if that awkward year at McLaren were to spoil a very promising future indeed.