Sergio Perez says a mistake at the last corner on his final run in Formula 1 qualifying at Imola cost him a potential maiden career pole position.

Perez responded to a difficult start to his weekend where he collided with Esteban Ocon in Friday’s opening practice session by securing a front row slot for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The Mexican ended just 0.035s shy of Lewis Hamilton’s pole position time, but the result gave Perez his best-ever starting position, having never qualified higher than third previously.

But speaking after qualifying, Perez felt his pace had been enough to steal pole in the closing stages.

“I should have been on pole today,” Perez said.

“I did a mistake on my final corner, so I think it’s everything positive.

“We just have to make sure that we keep progressing, and tomorrow is what matters.”

Perez was happy with his recovery from this incident with Ocon in FP1, and admitted second place had exceeded his expectations.

“I have to say well done to the team,” Perez said. “Yesterday I made a mistake and I made them work hard during the day, so it’s a good recovery.

“But the most important is always showing progress. I never expected to be here today where we were yesterday. We’ve been improving, but it’s just important to be P2.”

Perez opted to qualify on the soft compound tyres in Q2, leaving him on a different strategy to pole-sitter Hamilton and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen, who starts third.

Although the soft tyres will give him a pace advantage in the opening stint, Perez stressed scoring big points will be the “priority” on Sunday.

“I think anything can happen tomorrow,” Perez said. “We are on a different strategy to Lewis and Max. And so, it’s gonna be interesting to see what we can do.

“Most important [is to] get those points, get battling, which is priority at the moment.”