Sergio Perez says he is looking forward to trying to keep Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton behind him after qualifying on the third row of the Russian Grand Prix grid.

The Mexican looked strong all day and comfortably progressed into the final phase of qualifying at Sochi Autodrom as Force India showed an upturn in pace, but he still needed to nail a final flying lap in order to secure seventh on the Q3 timesheets - which becomes sixth when Vettel's penalty is applied from second overall.

"I am very pleased with our performance today and my final lap in Q3 was fantastic - just when it mattered," Perez enthused, "We were strong in Q1 and Q2, I was feeling very comfortable in the car and I was able to deliver great laps in each of the sessions, so we are making good progress as a team and our pace over one lap is very strong."

While team-mate Nico Hulkenberg lines up 13th after narrowly missing the cut in Q2, Perez will have Vettel to his inside and Hamilton two rows back with what the Briton hopes will be a potent Mercedes following repairs. Despite the obvious challenge, however, the Mexican is looking forward to the challenge.

"It will be interesting to see how we perform tomorrow because we have a fast car behind us and it will be a big challenge to hold our position," he acknowledged, "This is not a track that helps overtaking so there should be some nice battles. We have enough tyres to choose the best strategy tomorrow and I am optimistic we can come away with a nice result."