Perez scores first top-five of year, but Force India still with much to analyze (VIDEO)

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Coming out of the first sector on the first lap, the graphic read: 1: PER.

As, at Sector 1, Sergio Perez in the Force India-Mercedes led the Belgian Grand Prix. Perez got a monster run coming out of Eau Rouge after Lewis Hamilton didn’t fully hit his marks, and he moved to the outside of the Mercedes driver down the Kemmel Straight, but was unable to fully complete the pass around the outside into Les Combes.

He didn’t get to complete the lap in the lead, but it still marked the best moment of the season for the improving team with its updated chassis, as Perez was scored second at the end of the first lap.

An early pit stop was required to cover Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull, with the two ultimately set to battle over the final podium position behind the outright quicker pair of Mercedes W06s, who would later streak off into the distance. Perez pitted at that point and switched from Pirelli’s softs to softs, then pitted a second time for new mediums for the final 23 laps of what became a 43-lap race.

Perez would later drop back and it was with some disappointment that he ended fifth at the end of the race, even though it is still both his and the team’s best result of the year by a somewhat decent margin (previous best had been seventh on three occasions, twice by Nico Hulkenberg and once by Perez).

Perez described his race afterwards, as this was in theory the closest he has come to a podium result since coming third at the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Fifth place and ten points is a good result, but we just lacked the pace to really fight for the podium today,” Perez said.

“My start was very strong and I was close to taking the lead on lap one when I was alongside Lewis [Hamilton] after Eau Rouge.

“I settled into a good rhythm, but we had very high degradation on the soft tires in the first two stints. It was a bit better on the medium, although we struggled in the middle sector with our low downforce set-up and that hurt my pace.

“We were racing some quick cars and it was hard to fight off Grosjean and Kvyat, so it’s clear we need to analyze our performance and see where we can improve. I’m already looking forward to the next race in Monza, which is another track where I think we can be competitive.”

While Perez banked the needed 10 points to keep Force India firmly in the fight for fifth in the Constructor’s Championship, they lost a spot to Lotus, who scored 15 points by way of Romain Grosjean’s first podium since Austin 2013.

Hulkenberg’s race however ended before it even had the chance to begin. The German was sidelined off the grid with a loss of power.

Christopher Bell survives caution-filled Chili Bowl Prelim

TeeJay Crawford
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Christopher Bell survived the most caution-filled Feature of the week to win Thursday’s preliminary night at the 33rd Annual Chili Bowl. His ability to hold the lead on restarts helped lock Bell into his seventh Saturday A-Feature since 2013.

“I pretty much suck on restarts. I do better when I get into a rhythm,” said Christopher Bell on twitter.

Bell started the feature in third place behind Danny Stratton and Jerry Coons Jr. He took the lead on the first official lap of the race, but not until after two Lap 1 cautions.

The Oklahoma native held the lead through the remaining 24 laps and eight cautions until being challenged by Shane Golobic and CJ Leary on the final laps. Golobic briefly made it past him though Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap. Bell regained control in 1 and 2 to claim the checkers.

“It was a lot busier than what I wanted them to be. Shane definitely made a race out of it and I hope the last four laps were a good show. It was a lot of fun … well it was fun because I won but if I hadn’t won it wouldn’t have been much fun,” Bell said regarding the final laps.

Golobic earned the second transfer into Saturday’s A-Main after starting to the outside of Bell.

Leary completed the podium with the pole sitter Stratton finished fourth.

Josh Most battled through the B after a hard crash in his heat. He rebounded to transfer to the A and drove from 22nd to fifth.

With the throng of cautions at the start and finish of the race, the goal quickly became survival. Only 15 of 24 entries completed the full feature. Notable DNF’s included Ryan Bernal who started fifth, Coons, who started on the front row and Thomas Meseraull in 15th.

NASCAR’s Justin Allgaier finished 13th and will have a long day ahead of him on Saturday.

Friday Jan. 18 will be the final Qualifying night for the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

MORE: Rico Abreu wins Chili Bowl Night 3 
MORE: Kyle Larson wins Chili Bowl Night 2

Thursday’s Results

1. Christopher Bell
2. Shane Golobic
3. CJ Leary
4. Danny Stratton
5. Josh Most
6. Austin Brown
7. Tracy Hines
8. Casey Shuman
9. Kyle Cummins
10. Andrew Felker
11. Austin O’Dell
12. Seth Carlson
13. Justin Allgaier
14. Chase Johnson
15. Johnny Herrera
16. Ryan Bernal
17. Jerry Coons Jr.
18. Matt Sherrell
19. Thomas Meseraull
20. Jake Morgan
21. Andrew Deal
22. Kevin Bayer
23. Kaleb Currie
24. Joe B. Miller