The Red Bull driver struggled for pace and could only qualify fifth at Suzuka, while teammate Max Verstappen stormed to a dominant pole with a lap that was 0.773s quicker than Perez’s effort. 

Perez acknowledged Verstappen had done a “tremendous lap” but reckons he could have joined the Dutchman on the front row if he had an extra set of new soft tyres for Q3. 

"Max has been very strong,” Perez said. 

"I mean, when we see the difference that he is making, he's definitely had a tremendous lap. Well done to him.

"Definitely the front row was in the car today because [using] that second set in Q2 was not ideal. 

“And that put us on the back foot to the McLaren mainly by just having one set of new tyres, so that was not ideal.”

Speaking to the official F1 website, Perez admitted he has felt “two steps behind” Verstappen all weekend in Japan. 

“It was hard. We did struggle through the weekend,” the Mexican explained.

“We kind of were always two steps behind and we just couldn’t get the entry stability I was looking to get over a single lap.

“But come race day I think we are looking a lot better. I think that tomorrow is going to be such a degradation tyre battle that hopefully tomorrow we can still be able to do a one-two.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Perez has been unable to match Verstappen through the high-speed corners. 

“He’s slightly under the car compared to Max in those high-speed turns,” he told Sky. 

“He’s closed the gap in high-speed turns but Max keeps moving it. But P5 for Checo, I think he’ll have strong race pace, we saw that yesterday so I think he’ll be okay in the race.”