17 June 2016
F1 European GP: Force India pace ‘realistic’ in Baku
Third and fifth fastest times in practice for the Grand Prix of Europe bodes well for Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg ahead of F1 qualifying in Azerbaijan.
Sergio Perez says he is targeting a second F1 podium of 2016 after setting a top three time on the opening day of the Grand Prix of Europe in Baku.
The Mexican found himself at the heart of a Mercedes-powered top five on the city's street circuit and, while he remained a full second off the pace set by works driver Lewis Hamilton, Perez maintains that there was nothing false about either his position or that of Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, who sandwiched Williams' Valtteri Bottas by lining up fifth fastest.
“You don't know what programmes others are doing, obviously, and our target is to score as many points as [we can],” Perez insisted, “The car is feeling good, Nico and myself are very strong so hopefully, tomorrow, we can put a strong lap together [in qualifying].
“New places like this offer good opportunities before everyone gets used to it, and this weekend can offer a strong possibility to achieve a great result. I want to believe [a podium is possible] as the pace we are showing is quite realistic.”
Team-mate Hulkenberg was a little more hesitant when it came to predicting what would be, for him, a first visit to the top three in F1,
“I don't know - at the moment, I'm not thinking about that,” the German admitted, “I'm thinking day by day, session by session. We've made some good progress form P1 to P2, but the track will keep developing, more rubber will go down, so we'll have to see how it suits us and the others.
“Usually, we pick up performance also and, at the moment, I think we're in a good position, so we'll just work from here. It's a long track, so you do see bigger margins, but it was quite a gap to the people behind us. And I was a bit surprised by that. It's definitely a power track, a power unit track, and, with Mercedes, we have the right kit in the back of our cars. We know our competition - like Mercedes - have it as well but, comparing to some of the Renaults, we had a bit of an advantage.”
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