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.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.