Sergio Perez frustrated as Red Bull under pressure to fire him

Sergio Perez was almost eight-tenths of a second slower than Max Verstappen in Q3 at the Japanese GP.

Sergio Perez was left frustrated after qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, where he had to settle for fifth on the grid.

The Mexican hasn’t looked great throughout the weekend at Suzuka so far and has been considerably slower than his team-mate.

He openly admitted after qualifying that his session wasn’t “ideal”, with second on the grid having been what he viewed as achievable.

“No, it didn’t went ideal,” Perez admitted.

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“I think definitely P2, front row was on the cards today, because just missing that second set in Q2 was not ideal and that put us in the backfoot to the McLaren mainly by just having one set of new tyres [in Q3], that was not ideal.”

Perez qualified a staggering 0.773s behind Verstappen, who claimed pole position ahead of Oscar Piastri by almost six-tenths of a second.

The reigning World Champion is the clear favourite to win with ease on Sunday, courtesy of a “tremendous lap” to put him on pole.

“He’s been very strong,” Perez said. “When we see the difference that he is making he definitely had a tremendous lap and well done to him.”

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Starting behind Piastri, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc is certainly far from ideal for Perez, who will have to fight incredibly hard to claim a podium.

Both McLaren and Ferrari have shown good pace in Japan this weekend, meaning Perez will need to be clever to overtake them.

Checo suspects that tyre degradation will be “quite critical” during the race and could provide a path to the rostrum, especially as Ferrari have typically struggled to look after their tyres this season.

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He is confident that his race pace is good enough to secure yet another 1-2 on Sunday, which would seal the Constructors’ Championship.

“Anyway, let’s look forward to tomorrow,” Perez continued.

“I believe that in the race pace we are strong, we have good tyre deg and hopefully we can finish 1-2 tomorrow and that would be a great way to seal the Constructors’ Championship.”

He added: “I believe that deg is going to be quite critical tomorrow.”