Driver of the Day Perez felt P6 was possible before ‘unnecessary’ Turn 1 contact with Norris
Most drivers would be happy to finish P8 after beginning a Grand Prix from the pit lane, but Sergio Perez felt he could have done even better at Zandvoort, had it not been for damage picked up on his Red Bull in a late clash with McLaren’s Lando Norris.
After a disastrous 16th place in qualifying, Red Bull opted to change Perez’s power unit – including a difference spec Energy Store element – and start the Mexican from the back on hard tyres. From there he made steady progress up the order, pulling off several strong passes as he hauled his RB16B towards the points.
“Every overtake was very much on the limit,” said Perez. “It was so risky, every one. I had to take lots of risks. And following was really hard. I gave it (my) all today.”
The trickiest pass proved to be that on Norris for P10 on Lap 65 of 72, the two making quite heavy contact as Perez went around the outside at Turn 1. The stewards noted the incident, but decided it warranted no investigation.
“I felt it was quite unnecessary,” commented Perez. “I was there, I didn’t have enough space and we touched – and I damaged quite badly the right-hand side of the car. From then on I lost a lot of grip basically.”
Even with that damage, Perez went on to overtake Esteban Ocon’s Alpine in the closing stages and took the flag in P8, just half a second behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, and only 2.5s behind sixth-placed Fernando Alonso.
“It was a bit of a shame there at the end because I think P6 was possible,” added Perez, who summarised his pit-lane-to-P8 race by saying, “We managed to minimise the damage, let’s put it that way.”
For his part, Norris – like the stewards – saw the clash as a racing incident, saying: “I squeezed him a little bit, but I didn’t force him all the way off the track or anything like that.
“We both fought each other hard. I’m not going to make his life easy – I want those points just as much as he does.”
Despite Perez’s disappointment, one silver lining from his Dutch weekend is that he now has an extra power unit available – which means he should avoid a grid drop for an engine change in forthcoming races, such as next weekend’s in Italy.
“We had a new engine, so we’ve taken that penalty let’s say,” he concluded. “From now on it’s just looking forward, looking ahead, try to come back strong into Monza.”
Perez’s Zandvoort result means he remains fifth in the driver standings, but now lies just six points behind Norris.