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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner talks with Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Perez: The confidence is coming back

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 06: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner talks with Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 06, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sergio Perez just missed out on pole for the Japanese Grand Prix but is nevertheless bullish ahead of the race at Suzuka on Sunday.

The Mexican driver endured a difficult 2023 season, where he was markedly off the pace compared to teammate Max Verstappen and suffered a string of early Qualifying exits. There were even rumours that he could be replaced by a number of contending drivers, though none of these came to fruition.

2024 has started in a much better manner for Perez. Despite still being slower than his triple World Champion teammate, his consistency has improved with two second place finishes and a sub-par P5 in the Australian Grand Prix attributable to a tear-off from a driver’s helmet obstructing his RB20’s floor.

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At one point, Perez looked like he could challenge for pole earlier today around the Suzuka International Racing Course. However, the 34-year-old couldn’t follow up his purple middle sector with a good enough final sector and ended up less than a tenth behind Verstappen.

Compared to 2023 however, where Perez failed to reach Q3 on several occasions, yet another front row start is a positive result. And he seems to think so too.

Very enjoyable Qualifying

Perez: The confidence is coming back

After Qualifying, Perez was happy with the result but wished he could have snatched pole away from Verstappen. He said: “We have had a good weekend so far and made some really nice progress throughout qualifying today.

“Unfortunately, in the end we couldn’t get totally hooked in for the final lap, I didn’t get a nice exit into my lap and that was probably enough to miss pole today”, stated the Mexican.

Perez emphasised the progress he and the team have made since last year. He continued: “I think generally we are a lot better placed with the car, if you remember last year here, we were seven tenths off Max and it was probably the hardest circuit in terms of balance.

“this season things are looking a lot different and the confidence is coming back. Having a nice balance around Suzuka doesn’t compare to anything else in the world, today was very enjoyable.”

The Red Bull driver hopes to challenge his teammate during the 53-lap event for the victory tomorrow: He concluded: “Max and I have been on par all weekend, I think we will be close tomorrow and we have everything to fight for.”

The Japanese Grand Prix will commence at 06:00 GMT (14:00 local time) on Sunday April 7th. Can Perez get his first race win of the 2024 Formula One World Championship?