Sergio Perez says a poor run through the first sector on his final flying lap in qualifying cost him a fourth-place starting spot for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Mexican could only manage ninth place, seven places behind Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, who was pipped to pole by just 0.003s by Lewis Hamilton.

However, Perez was made to lament a scruffy opening through to his last lap, which he believes pushed him back five places on the grid amid a closely fought Q3 session.  

But the Red Bull driver is confident of recovering in the 70-lap race, hinting that the set-up on his RB19 car is tailored more towards the longer runs.

“It was such a tight battle, you know, and especially going through all the compounds,” he said.

“We were digging around with the Softs there in the end and I think we got caught out with it in the final run – in Sector 1 I lost quite a bit – like a tenth-and-a-half – that would have put us easily I think P4 or something like that.

“But anyway, I think we’ve got a good race car and after [final practice], we found a good rhythm. We focused quite a lot into tomorrow’s race, so hopefully that pays out.”

While Perez was disappointed to end up at the tail end of the top 10, he did at least bring an end to his wretched run of five successive Q3 absences prior to Saturday in Hungary.

He was able to avoid the problems that Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Mercedes’ George Russell encountered during the trial running of the Alternative Tyre Allocation (ATA) qualifying format.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19. 22.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, Qualifying Day.

Initially set to be tested at the cancelled Imola event, the revised formula mandated that every driver used the Hard tyre in Q1, the Medium in Q2, and the Soft in Q3.

Perez, though, sailed through untroubled to the pole position shootout and maintains that he was always confident his recent struggles would eventually come to an end.

“I think we always knew that we had the pace and we just needed a solid weekend and it’s been a solid day,” he summarised.

“It could have gone either way, but I think what matters is tomorrow, and I believe that we can fight from there.”

Despite starting within the midfield pack, Perez, who has only one podium finish to his name in the previous five races, is targeting a top-three finish on Sunday.

He added: “I believe we can be competitive and aim to finish on the podium as we have a good race car and a strong race pace.

“The track here is harder to overtake on but I am confident we will have a good performance: everything is to play for on race day.”

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