'Frustrating to see a podium slip away' says Racing Point boss after mixed Austria result
Sergio Perez isn’t a stranger to the podium having stood on the rostrum eight times in his Formula 1 career, and he could have had his ninth in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, says Racing Point’s Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer.
“That was a pretty busy afternoon on all fronts and I’m sure great entertainment for the fans watching on television," Szafnauer said after the race. "After such a long break from racing, it was important to start our season with a handful of points with Sergio in sixth place."
Starting sixth, Perez pitted from hards to mediums on Lap 26 while podium finishers Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris took a second stop on Lap 52 during the second Safety Car. A five-second penalty for Perez (for speeding in the pitlane) didn’t, in the end, hurt his finishing position.
Szafnauer explained why Perez wasn’t pitted for new tyres during the second Safety Car interruption, which occurred as marshals had to recover George Russell’s broken down Williams.
“It’s frustrating to see a podium slip away in the final few laps,” said the Racing Point boss, “but it was difficult to hold off those cars with a tyre advantage. With so many Safety Car interruptions, we had some difficult decisions to make and we chose to preserve track position rather than pit.
“The cars behind us effectively had free pit stops and could react to what we did – pitting when we chose to stay out. That was certainly the case with the McLarens and Leclerc.”
After being passed by podium-finisher Norris and his McLaren team mate Carlos Sainz in the dying moments of the race, Perez echoed Szafnauer’s comments, as he added: “We had to fight hard today and we had strong pace. Sixth place is a good way to start the season, but we could have finished even higher. We were unlucky with the Safety Cars, but it's easy to say after the race that we should have pitted a second time.
“I had to defend from drivers on fresher tyres in the final laps, which was a challenge. However, this was a good race to learn plenty about the car and our performance.”
Though Perez's team mate Lance Stroll retired early on in the other car, the resurgent Racing Points did show impressive pace throughout the weekend, and sixth in Austria was Perez’s best finish there since 2014 – which bodes well for his return to the Red Bull Ring for the second back-to-back race at the Austrian track this weekend.