F1: Perez reflects on superb third place in Russia

Force India driver Sergio Perez of Mexico celebrates with his third-place trophy Sunday.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

Sergio Perez was one of the stars of the Russian GP after a bold strategy call by Force India helped the Mexican to an eventual third place.

Perez was the best placed of several drivers who gambled by pitting under an early safety car and attempting to get to the flag while others waited and pitted under green.

He held third for many laps only to lose out to Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen on the penultimate lap after his tires finally gave up. However, the two Finns then collided, and Perez regained the final podium spot.

“I was confident going into the race, obviously not expecting a podium at all, but the race started quite well,” he said. “Obviously Nico [Hulkenberg] went out quite early, the safety car came out. Then we had a second safety car and we decided to box. We were one of the few cars to box.

“The restart going behind Felipe [Massa] and Nasr, I was just stuck there and couldn’t get them, so I decided to save my tires together with the team, to look after them at the end of the race, and it worked really well.”

Perez admitted his tires were finished in the closing laps: “I think we lost a podium one lap before the end, but it was just very difficult to hold them back, to hold Valtteri and Raikkonen back.

“At the stage I couldn’t brake very hard, very late because I was at risk of flat-spotting my tires and retiring from the race, so there was a certain level of risk that I was able to take and I thought OK, if it’s not a podium, let’s really come back with the points. And then in the last lap they had contact and it was very good to come back and give a second podium to the team.

Perez said he’s excited about the future: “I think we’re going into a great momentum. It’s great news that I’m staying with the team, so we have a lot of momentum going through us and hopefully we can maintain it for the end of the year.

“Definitely I’m going through a great moment in my career. From where we are it’s difficult to realize but people who look at my performance, they can see that I’m at my best moment in my career, and that’s something that makes me confident.”

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