Sergio Perez has lavished praise on his more ‘confident’ Racing Point team following its impressive showing during the opening round of the 2020 F1 World Championship, even if the results didn’t ultimately show it comes Sunday evening.

Having already turned heads during pre-season testing with its RP20 – colloquially named the ‘pink Mercedes’ based on its resemblance to last year’s title-winning W10 – Racing Point came good on its promise in race conditions as it battled for the podium in the hands of Perez.

Though the chances of the rostrum were scuppered when he got out of sync with strategy amid a flurry of late safety cars, Perez believes Racing Point has the outright performance to battle for the podium again in this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, even if the margin between it and rivals McLaren remains very tight.

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“It was great to see the team fighting up there, being in the mix with the Ferrari and McLaren,” he said. “We definitely enjoyed good pace, we were competitive in qualifying, competitive in the race I think we were very unlucky in the race, in the end we got the strategy wrong so we lost a potential podium and then with Lance retiring the car we lost some very valuable points in the championships but it is going to be a very close challenge between us and McLaren.

“The margin is extremely tight, half a tenth changes your life completely. They were ahead in qualifying, I overtook them in the race but it is very close and they overtook us back. It will be down to the drivers for now.”

Racing Point’s fast start to the year appears to mark the tipping point at the end of a hugely tumultuous time for team formerly known as Force India. Under that guise the Silverstone-based outfit was regularly described as F1’s best value team in terms of performance versus budget, though it skirted closely to folding more than once during that time.

However, a rescue package forged by a consortium-led by Lawrence Stroll has pumped fresh investment into the team to give it a bright future that will ultimately lead to its rebrand to Aston Martin Racing in 2021.

Indeed, Perez says the team is relishing the chance to be competitive from the off and not worry about looming money pressures.

“It is certainly different, the way we work, the way we approach, I think it is the first time we have had a competitive package since race one, something we can work on. There is a good development package coming later on [too], we certainly feel confident.

“We are not on our nails all the time and it’s great to see with these guys because for so many years, we finally have a competitive package we can fight with .

“Throughout my career I don’t think I have had the opportunity to be so close from race one so looking forward and hopefully a podium will come.”