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Ex-F1 champion hails Perez's Saudi pace: We didn't expect that!

With Sergio Perez taking victory in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Damon Hill says the Mexican's pace at Jeddah was unexpected.

Former F1 World Champion Damon Hill says he was surprised by Sergio Perez's pace in his Saudi Arabian Grand Prix win, and hailed the Mexican's ability to handle the pressure of teammate Max Verstappen bearing down on him. With Verstappen lining up only 15th after a driveshaft issue in qualifying, pole-sitter Perez was widely considered the favourite to take victory in Jeddah, and he duly did so, holding the lead from Lap 4 all the way to the flag. However, with Verstappen's charge through the field aided by a mid-race Safety Car period, the Mexican had to be at his best to keep his teammate at bay, and delivered an excellent Safety Car restart before matching Verstappen's pace and maintaining the gap to the Dutchman to see out his fifth Grand Prix win. Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Hill said he was impressed by Perez's ability to deal with the pressure of Verstappen closing in on him from behind, especially given the pace advantage the Dutchman had shown before his driveshaft issue. "We sort of expected [Red Bull to dominate at Jeddah]," said the 1996 World Champion. "But what we didn't expect was the way that Sergio Perez put the hammer down when he had Max Verstappen breathing down his neck, getting as close as four and a half seconds, and he dealt with that pressure just brilliantly. "It looks easy when you look at their competitive advantage from everyone else, but he knows what Max is made of, he knows how much he's going to push, and Max had got into that position; the Safety Car helped him a little bit. "Especially after the qualifying advantage that Max had over Checo, it was easy to read that race as, 'oh, he'll just eat him up and disappear, and we'll see him 20 seconds down the road from Checo at the end.' [But] that's not what happened."

Perez mirroring early-season form from 2022?

Perez's win represented a measure of redemption for the Mexican, who had lost out on a potential win at Jeddah last year when an ill-timed Safety Car deployment dropped him from first to fourth. The Mexican also took a consummate win in last year's Monaco Grand Prix, and his good form in Jeddah prompted Hill to suggest that Perez may be mirroring his strong start to 2022, before Verstappen gradually eased away from him in the second half of that year. "[Perez] was quick at the beginning of last year, and as the season progressed, [Perez] had more trouble keeping in touch with [Verstappen]. Time will tell – we'll see how it pans out," said Hill.

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