Sergio Perez excited to be ‘playing for something’ in season finale

Sergio Perez looks out after qualifying. Abu Dhabi November 2022. Credit: Alamy
Sergio Perez looks out after qualifying. Abu Dhabi November 2022. Credit: Alamy

Sergio Perez is ready for his duel with Charles Leclerc for second in the Drivers’ Championship on Sunday and is happy to be “playing for something” as the season comes to an end.

The Red Bull and Ferrari drivers will leave the grid second and third on Sunday, behind reigning champion Max Verstappen – who took his seventh pole position of the year on Saturday.

Perez and Leclerc will also start level on points after 21 races, leaving the two fighting for the mantle of ‘best of the rest’ behind the all-conquering Dutchman, who will go in search of a record-extending 15th race victory of the season on Sunday.

But despite not being able to match his team-mate, Perez took second on the grid and will form Red Bull’s first front-row lockout since 2018.

“It was a good session,” Perez said after qualifying.

“It was looking better after Q2, then Q3, it didn’t start that well, especially run one, wasn’t ideal.  Then the second run was quite a lot better.

“Not enough for pole, though. So still, I think being on the front row for the team it’s a good result, especially after the weekend we come from, you know, in Sao Paulo where we struggled quite a bit. It’s nice to be back.”

Verstappen revealed after the session that Perez was given the option about whether or not to have a tow in qualifying, with a possible straight-line speed benefit at a cost to downforce through the corners.

Perez opted to take it, and he felt it paid off.

“Yeah, it certainly did,” he said of the tow working to his advantage. “I think we worked really well as a team today. And I could feel, especially Sector 2, it was working.

“What you gain, you lose a bit in Sector 3, but generally, I think certainly it was a positive thing.

“It’s going be a difficult race. I do expect them to be strong. So, it’s going to be a close battle with Charles, so it will be an interesting one for tomorrow.”

“It’s quite exciting. It’s great to be playing for something in the final race. So it is good.”

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Read more: Winners and Losers from Abu Dhabi GP qualifying: Mercedes take a backward step

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