Perez: Unlucky with the timing of the virtual safety car
Sergio Perez lamented the poor timing of the Virtual Safety Car during the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix as he had to settle for second place behind Max Verstappen.
Perez looked set to beat his Verstappen for a second race in a row as he overqualified him on Saturday and dragged him and Charles Leclerc off the line at the start of Sunday’s race.
But after that the 2021 Formula 1 champion put his foot down, overtaking the Mexican on track, and as Leclerc retired he won the race with authority, by an impressive gap of over 20 seconds.
Perez attributed his lack of pace around Baku to excessive tire degradation, which, along with a poorly timed Virtual Safety Car, kept him out of contention for victory.
“I started very well, we were in the lead and we felt we had things under control,” he said in the team’s post-race press release.
“We were a bit unlucky with the timing of the VSC which made things a bit more difficult for us,” he added. “When you’re leading the race for the first stint, which is normally the hardest, you think you look strong, but that wasn’t the case today and that’s racing.
It made no sense for Perez to fight Verstappen
“I had bad degradation on my rear tires which meant I couldn’t keep Max behind, he was extremely fast and it made sense for him to pass me rather than fight him,” Perez pointed out.
“We were told to keep some pace on the hard once the two Ferraris were out of the race and we handled the rest well. We need to understand where we could have got the most out of the car today and go from forward in Canada and make sure we’re in the running again.
“Today was a great result for the team and a good day in the Constructors’ Championship,” concluded the three-time race winner.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted Perez’s struggle with tire degradation and said: “Max seemed to have a little less degradation than Sergio Perez.”
He pointed out that this may have been due to Perez opting for a qualifying-friendly setup on his car, as evidenced by the Mexican’s lap pace.
“He got magical yesterday,” said Horner. “Maybe we overemphasized qualifying on his side of the garage.”
The difference in pace dictated the orders of the teams
As for the team’s orders for Perez not to fight his teammate, the Briton explained: “I mean, the difference in pace between the two drivers was so big.
“We discussed it this morning about ‘look, if you’re running against each other, just give yourself space’, and they did that today.
“And 2018 is not very far away, in the back of our minds,” he added, referring to the tire explosion that ended Verstappen’s 2021 race.
“So it was very important, you know, that the drivers at this stage of the championship, that they were fair with each other because it’s to maximize the points against Ferrari.
“We know they have a very fast car at the moment. We have seen how quickly things can change. So as a team we have to prioritize,” the 48-year-old concluded.
However, Perez’s result in Baku means he is now ahead of Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship, as he is now second behind Verstappen, who leads him by 21 points.
(Additional report by Agnès Carlier)
—Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) June 12, 2022