Sergio Perez expects Red Bull will face much stronger competition from Ferrari in Saudi Arabia this weekend compared to the season-opening race.
Red Bull dominated the opening round of the championship in Bahrain, locking out the front row in qualifying and winning comfortably Max Verstappen leading home team mate Perez with. Fernando Alonso, the first of Red Bull’s rivals to finish, was 38 seconds behind.
Ferrari only finished fourth with Carlos Sainz Jnr after Charles Leclerc retiring from third position late in the race. Nonetheless Perez expects Ferrari to be much closer to him and Verstappen on the high-speed Jeddah track this weekend.
“I think it’s a very different circuit here,” said Perez. “The requirements are very different, the degradation is not as severe as Bahrain.
“We certainly believe that Ferrari is going to be very strong around this place. Certainly the Astons, Mercedes are going to be a lot closer to us because the requirements are very different here.”
Perez pointed to Red Bull’s tyre management around a notoriously abrasive Bahrain circuit as one of the keys to their dominance. He does not expect Red Bull will be able to exploit that advantage to the same extent this weekend.
“Looking after the tyres, I think we got it right in Bahrain,” he said. “A few teams probably didn’t optimise their cars or their strategy with the tyres as much as we were able to. But here is just very different, because here the requirements are extremely different.”
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is the scene of Perez’s sole career pole position, which he achieved last year. However, Perez says his form of 2022 is unlikely to directly carry over into this weekend.
“It certainly gives me good confidence because I feel comfortable in the circuit,” he said. “But every year it’s a new challenge. We’ve come here with different cars, different tyres, so it’s going to be different challenges. It’s the beauty of our sport – it doesn’t really matter what you’ve done here in the past, every year it’s a new challenge.
“I certainly enjoy a lot this circuit. I think it’s a great challenge for all the drivers, especially on Saturday in qualifying. So hopefully we can get a good quali because it’s really important here.”
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