(Reuters) – Sergio Perez said before the Formula One season started that he needed five races to get up to speed with Red Bull and the Mexican duly delivered by winning the sixth in Azerbaijan on Sunday.
If victory fell into his lap after team mate Max Verstappen crashed out with a tyre blowout five laps from the end while leading, it was still richly deserved.
Perez had qualified only seventh, moving up to sixth after McLaren’s Lando Norris was demoted, but he showed his pace throughout.
The Mexican made up two places on the opening lap, was third by lap eight and had slotted into second behind Verstappen by lap 12.
Perez joined Red Bull at the end of last season, after being replaced by four times world champion Sebastian Vettel — second on Sunday — at what is now Aston Martin.
It had looked at one point last year like he might have to leave the sport, at least until he took a first grand prix win in Bahrain in December, and Perez said victory with his new team felt “very, very sweet.
“They have given me a massive opportunity,” he added.
“We didn’t have the start of the season we were hoping for. I found my adaptation harder than expected but we have been working extremely hard since day one with the engineers back at the factory.
“Finally we got a very good result for the team.”
Perez had finished fourth in Portugal and Monaco and fifth in Spain and Bahrain, with an 11th at Imola his only finish outside the points this season.
“This definitely gives a big boost of confidence to myself and also to my team, to my side of the garage,” he said after an afternoon that held plenty of challenges.
He revealed that he had been told by the team not to weave to warm the tyres at the re-start because of concern about a mechanical problem and was told to stop as soon as he took the chequered flag.
Perez also had to out-race seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton into the first corner at the re-start, with the Mercedes driver locking up and going off the track.
“Getting your first win in Formula One is something unbelievable but getting a first win with a new family, with a new team, I feel like it gets you together more,” he said.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)