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GP Week : Issue 230
sergio Perez is in the form of his career after sealing an unlikely podium at the Russian Grand Prix. An early strategy gamble paid huge dividends for Force India after the team elected to stop Perez under the safety car. It left the Mexican a long run to the finish on a single set of tyres, though that's nothing new for the 25-year-old who grew accustomed to grafting out results using similar strategies during his time at Sauber. The podium result highlighted an upturn in performance since the team introduced its B-Spec VJM08 at the British Grand Prix. Ever since Perez has finished out of the points just twice - indeed he's finished inside the points nine times in this 15 races so far this year. "I am going through a great moment in my career," beamed Perez after the race. "It makes me confident. We were not expecting the podium at all." Stopping early, Perez nursed his tyres while tucked up behind the slower Felipe Massa and Felipe Nasr, which allowed the Force India to stretch the strategy to the end of the race. But in the closing laps he was struggling, and fell victim to Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen, who both had far fresher tyres. Having run in third for much of the race, Perez was demoted to fifth little more than a lap from the flag as the Williams and Ferrari both made short work of the slowing Force India. "I lost the podium place one lap before the end but it was very difficult to hold Valtteri and Raikkonen back at that stage," Perez explained. "I could not brake very hard, I was at risk of flat-spotting tyres, there was a certain level of risk that I was able to take and I thought if not a podium, let's come back with points." As events transpired, Perez ended up on the podium when Raikkonen punted Bottas off the road on the final lap, moving the Force India back on to the third step of the rostrum. It came as a welcome distraction to the fact Nico Hulkenberg's race ended at the first corner after qualifying a promising sixth fastest. The result moves Force India to 92 points on the constructors' championship, 26 clear of sixth placed Lotus with four rounds remaining. 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> RUSSIA PARTNERS: Super Sergio