Even with grid penalty, second in Baku qualifying feels like pole to Perez

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Sergio Perez claims that second place in qualifying for the European Grand Prix feels like pole position despite dropping back on the grid due to a penalty.

Perez left his Force India mechanics with a race against time to get his car ready for qualifying after crashing late in final practice on Saturday afternoon.

A swift repair job ensured the Mexican could take part in Q1 as planned, although a gearbox change was required, leaving him with a five-place grid penalty.

Perez continued Force India’s impressive practice pace throughout qualifying, even occupying provisional pole in Q3 until Nico Rosberg got in a late lap time for Mercedes.

No other driver could beat Perez though, leaving him second in the final classification and seventh on the grid for Sunday’s race.

When asked if P2 felt like pole, Perez said: “Yeah it does, to be honest it does.

“The effort that the whole team has put in, especially my boys to put the car together, first of all to the able to make the qualifying.

“Obviously I’m still a bit angry for the mistake this morning. I think it’s a mixed feeling for me today.I think the lap that we put together in Q3 was very, very strong. It was a very difficult session for me because of the crash. You lose some confidence and to get it back and get in the rhythm again was great.

“Very pleased with that and hopefully tomorrow can do a lot of progress and aim for a very strong position. I think the team deserves more than this and hopefully tomorrow we can put together a strong race.”

Perez admitted that he was surprised by Force India’s pace in Baku, having doubted that it would be in the thick of the fight at the front of the pack.

“I think we were expecting ourselves to be strong around here but not that good,” Perez said.

“To come away with P2 in this track, it’s so easy to make a mistake, clip the wall and damage your car. Unfortunately it happened for me at the worst possible time in FP3.

“I think we have to look forward for tomorrow and try to have a strong race.”

The European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.