While Perez said he was not necessarily shocked to see Ricciardo put on such a strong performance, he believes the outcome of Saturday’s qualifying session would have been vastly different if he had managed to avoid using an extra set of tyres in Q2.
Asked whether he was expecting AlphaTauri to split the two Red Bulls, Perez said: “Yes, and the Ferrari as well, but it is what it is.
“Our progression in Q3 wasn’t great, we ended up losing one set that potentially we didn’t need to, but, obviously, you only know that after qualifying.
“I think that really hurt us in the progression we had in Q3, when you are talking about one tenth and a half or two tenths, that would have changed our life completely, so this is the way it is.”
“Daniel did a tremendous lap,” the 33-year-old said when pressed on whether the Australian’s achievement added further pressure on his future with reigning champions Red Bull.
“I don’t think it’s just Daniel who wants my seat. Let’s say there is a lot of other drivers that want to be in that seat, and it’s great. If it’s what they deserve then [I’m] happy for them.
Since the Singapore Grand Prix, Perez has recorded a string of poor race results, starkly contrasting with Verstappen’s indomitable form in 2023.
However, Perez regards a fourth-place finish in Austin last weekend as positive progress and is expecting to build on that result this weekend despite his qualifying troubles.
“Yes, we already made the progress in Austin, we are also making progress here, so I think we are on a good level with the car,” he noted.
“But today was very difficult. Every single set of tyres I had today performed differently, so it’s a track that is difficult to get the most out of it.
“I don’t want to go too much into detail but certainly I’ll say that we got lost on a few weekends with the set-up and we took a reset and I think for us, it’s looking better.
“[We are] starting set-ups a lot closer and just diverging through the weekend on things that we want to achieve differently.”
Looking to improve on his previous best result of third at the Mexico City venue (2021, 2022), the Red Bull driver is expecting this afternoon’s race to prove a challenge.
“It’s going to be very tricky tomorrow but there is a long race ahead,” he added. “I will try to pull something special for tomorrow and see what happens.
“I will try [to win]. It’s a track that’s difficult to overtake but we will try to make progress early on.”