ZANDVOORT, Netherlands – Sergio Perez felt his recovery drive at the Dutch Grand Prix could have been two places better than eighth position were it not for seperate collisions with Nikita Mazepin and Lando Norris.
Perez was eliminated in Q1 on Saturday, prompting Red Bull to fit a new engine to his car, ensuring a pit-lane start but crucially freeing him of the risk of grid penalties later in the year.
The Mexican driver’s progress through the order at the start when he had to brake heavily to avoid contact with Mazepin at Turn 1, destroying the front right on his first set of tyres.
“We managed to minimise a bit the damage, especially on this track which is very much impossible to overtake,” Perez said. “A lot of risk had to be taken.
“[It was] a race really complicated a lot with Nikita in the beginning because I flat-spotted my tyres. He moved really late under braking. To avoid him I flat-spotted my tyres, I had to come in and basically start again, our race. I think that cost us probably P6.”
Later in the race Perez was charging through the order but came to blows with Norris at the same corner, tagging the McLaren driver twice while passing him around the outside.
Perez revealed, who finished within 2.5s of Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz ahead, said the Norris incident left him with significant car damage.
“Apart from [Mazepin] it was a sensible race apart from the touch with Lando as well which cost a lot of the right-hand side of the floor, it took away. I think that also cost us P6.
“The positive is that Max won the race for the team, we have our new engine and we are good for the rest of the year.”
Explaining the incident from his point of view, Norris explained the contact was so severe it knocked his foot off the throttle and briefly sent his car airbourne, meaning he lost momentum and was unable to keep Perez behind on the run from Turn 1 to the banked Turn 3.
Norris got a controversial time penalty for forcing Perez into the gravel in Austria and he explained that he was determined to defend as close to the line as possible to make a point that he’s not a pushover.
“I can’t look at my mirror the whole way round the corner. So a bit of it has to be done on judgement and expectation of him knowing I’m not going to make his life easy, me knowing he’s going to try and go around the outside,” Norris explained later.
“We squeezed and I think I left him enough room. I need to look at an onboard and stuff.
“Of course I’m gonna come off throttle and try and squeeze him and not make his life easy. But it’s only that, I’m not gonna try and make contact or try and force him off or anything because last time I did I got a penalty!
“I’m not stupid, I’m not silly, but I’m not going to let him past either, so it’s that simple.”