Sergio Perez’s first race for Red Bull was almost over before it started in Bahrain on Sunday but the experienced Mexican kept his cool to progress from pit lane to fifth in Formula One’s season-opener.
He even wound up a winner, taking the fan vote for driver of the day with 27.7% to his team mate and grand prix runner-up Max Verstappen’s 16.8%.
Mercedes’ race winner Lewis Hamilton polled 7.5%.
Perez’s race was less sensational than the one in Bahrain last December where he went from last on lap one to the top of the podium for Racing Point (now Aston Martin) but no less determined a rescue drive.
Perez admitted he had been close to jumping out when his car stopped on the way to the grid but somehow he managed to get it going again.
“I was in the middle of the corner and everything went off. I lost engine, I lost ignition, I thought that that was it,” he said.
Due to start 11th, with Verstappen on pole, Perez made it back to the pit lane to join the field last again on lap one.
“Considering my race almost didn’t happen today, I think overall we can be pleased with today and take away the positives as the pace was really good and the potential is there,” said Perez.
Team principal Christian Horner praised his driver’s “great comeback drive” in a race that was otherwise a missed opportunity for a team who had been consistently fastest throughout the weekend.
“He kept a cool, calm head after the issue on the Formation Lap and was able to deliver a strong points haul,” he said.
Perez’s main task at Red Bull is to make a greater contribution than Verstappen’s last three team mates to the points tally, but he has recognised it will take time to adapt to his new surroundings.
“I’m working hard, the engineers are working hard together with me and it will eventually click. And the time that happens, then we’re going to be very strong,” he said.