Sergio Perez: Target is to “keep improving” after Bahrain podium

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Formula One returns to action this coming weekend in China, and Force India’s Sergio Perez is ready to build upon his podium finish in the most recent race at Bahrain.

Perez fought off Daniel Ricciardo to earn his first podium since the 2012 season and just the second in the Silverstone team’s history (Giancarlo Fisichella, 2009, Belgium). Now, the Mexican hopes that he can remain a podium threat, starting with the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai.

“The target is to move on, keep improving and target more podiums,” he said in a team release. “Bahrain was the first real opportunity I had to develop the car through the weekend without any issues, so it felt like my season really started there.

“Now we need to think about how we can do better in China. At the same time, we must not get carried away because we know how competitive Formula One is and how things can change very quickly.”

But while China beckons, Perez still understandably is on a high after his hard-earned result in the desert.

“To get the podium in Bahrain was great,” he said. “My last podium was a long time ago, so to fight at the front again feels good. We knew we were quick and I made sure I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

“It’s a great result for this team and a big boost of confidence for me.”

That boost can’t hurt Perez as he looks to post a strong run at Shanghai, a circuit that has not been an especially strong one for him in his career. In the last two Chinese Grand Prix, he’s fallen just short of the points with 11th place finishes in 2012 with Sauber and in 2013 with McLaren.

But with Force India clearly enjoying its advantage with the Mercedes engine, his expectations will no doubt be much higher than that this time around. That’s certainly the case for his boss, team owner Vijay Mallya.

“I think we’ve shown in the first few races that we have produced a competitive car,” he said in the same release. “Bahrain was not just a one-off and we’ve been improving with each race.

“…The aim is to repeat the podium, but each race is different and the field is so competitive that it’s impossible to predict. Some tracks will suit us more than others, but I want to see us up there fighting towards the front.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III