Mark Hughes on the first pole position of Sergio Perez

In yesterday’s qualification in Jeddah, Sergio Perez became the author of a sensation when he showed the best time: in the decisive attempt, the Mexican racer Red Bull Racing drove a lap in 1 minute. 28,200 seconds, twenty-five thousandths faster than Charles Leclerc.

Mark Hughes, an expert on The Race, conducted a comparative analysis of telemetry and determined why Sergio was able to show such a result on the most difficult city highway.

Sergio Perez won the pole from the 215th attempt! Only in the 1990s did the first riders appear to cross the 200 Grand Prix, and those who had waited so long for their first qualifying victory were all the more numerous at the time. (In 1991, Riccardo Patrese became the first in history to score more than 200 starts)

But the skill of Sergio on this statistic can not be judged, because behind the wheel of a car that allows you to fight for the pole, he is only the second season. None of the Sauber, McLaren or Force India / Racing Point cars he piloted before becoming a Red Bull racer were particularly fast.

But I must say that even last year, when the RB16B was often the fastest car on the starting field, Perez never claimed the pole. On average, his results in qualifying were 0.526% worse than that of Max Ferstappen, his teammate. On Sundays, the Mexican always did better than on Saturdays. It was in the races that he demonstrated everything he was capable of, thanks to his ability to work with rubber and impressive piloting skills.

But this time he not only took full advantage of the fact that Ferstappen failed to find an approach to preparing the tires in front of a fast lap, but also to get ahead of Ferrari drivers and finally win his first pole. And on one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar.

Ferstappen showed only the 4th result, losing 0.261 seconds to his teammate, who had previously been able to overtake him only once in qualifying – this was last year in Imola, where Max made a mistake.

“It was necessary to take risks and fly very accurately,” said a satisfied Perez after qualifying. “Even if I drove thousands of laps, I wouldn’t be able to do it again.” I just tried to focus completely and drive the perfect circle, but at the same time I had to take a very big risk. “

But this is the nature of the route in Jeddah, where you have to go close to the barriers. Probably, it is no coincidence that Sergio showed his best qualifying result during his performances for Force India on the Baku City Circuit, which makes similar demands on drivers. And his first victory behind the wheel of a Red Bull car last year, he also won in Baku (after the departure of Ferstappen). He knows how to drive against concrete bumpers.

Although on each lap of the track in Saudi Arabia, riders have to overcome 27 turns, there are only seven braking zones. And to brake correctly is not an easy task, because the machines are set to a very low level of downforce, and for a while you can win back just by braking.

On all other sections of the route you just need to go at full throttle and accurately choose the trajectories in high-speed turns. Let’s try to understand how the circle of Sergio Perez, who brought him a pole, differed from the circle that his partner passed.

Perez vs. Ferstappen

In the first half of the lap to the stud of the 13th turn, Perez mostly brakes before Ferstappen, but the acceleration starts earlier. Earlier braking allows you to turn more efficiently, the car rotates around its axis earlier, which allows you to press the gas earlier.

Perez gains an advantage precisely due to acceleration, because it works more confidently with rubber and “feels” it better. But acceleration is preceded by a clear braking, and when cornering it loads less front tire, keeps slightly higher minimum speed in the apex, respectively, acceleration is slightly less intense, and the rear tires are easier to handle. In general, it seems that Sergio fights less with the car than Max.

But in the second half of the lap Perez is playing for Ferstappen already in the braking zones. Probably, by this time the rear tires on the RB18 Max are already overheating, while on the Sergio car they are still in optimal condition.

In the 22nd, 24th and 27th turns Perez manages to brake later and accelerate better. If Ferstappen has to shift to a higher gear to avoid excessive slippage of the drive wheels, the engine on the Mexican car runs more smoothly, which indicates dynamic acceleration. At the same time, the traction of the drive wheels with the track remains fairly stable at all times.

Only in the high-speed connection from the 14th to the 16th turn Ferstappen manages to win something back, but only due to the fact that he goes even closer to the bumpers.

Perez vs. Leclerc

If you compare the work of Red Bull and Ferrari drivers, despite the approximately same time on the lap, this result is achieved differently.

The Red Bull car, as in Bahrain, is noticeably faster at the end of straight lines. The RB18’s wing angle appears to be smaller than its F1-75, but the Red Bull is also less prone to swinging and destabilizing at high speeds.

On the section from the 4th to the 13th turn, Ferrari manages to accelerate better, although the red cars are set to a higher downforce. In the first half of the lap Lecler was a little faster than Perez, before the 13th turn he managed to switch to 7th gear, while Sergio was still driving in sixth. Red Bull probably prefers other gear ratios.

The hairpin of the 13th turn RB18 passes faster, but Ferrari has a higher speed at the exit, as well as in the speed twists that follow it. Until the 24th turn, Leclerc is still ahead, but in the final turns of the circle, in the 24th and 27th, and they are both quite slow, Perez not only makes up for the lag, but also gets the advantage.

“Sergio drove an incredible lap,” admitted Leclerc, clearly saddened that he missed the pole. “Because my attempt was good, too, and I thought it was fast enough.”

Not this time.


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