Perez rues late Safety Car, saying Eifel GP 'podium was ours' without it
Sergio Perez was left regretting not being able to add to his already impressive tally of career podiums at the Eifel Grand Prix, with the Racing Point driver saying that a mid-race Safety Car had scuppered his chances of securing the ninth rostrum of his career.
After qualifying a disappointing P9 in the updated Racing Point RP20 on Saturday, Perez had then used a long first stint to climb to P4 behind Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo by Lap 44 of 60, when the Safety Car was called into action.
But with Perez having been on 12 lap-younger tyres than Ricciardo and catching the Renault fast, the Mexican was unequivocal about the fact that the Safety Car had cost him a podium.
“I’m gutted because I felt the podium was in our hands,” said Perez. “I think without the Safety Car the podium was going to be ours. We were catching very fast Daniel. He was going to struggle at some point with his tyres but then the Safety Car came.”
The Safety Car allowed Ricciardo and Perez effectively a free pit stop each, neutralising the battle between them and allowing Ricciardo to secure his first podium with Renault. But had Perez and Racing Point considered staying out to gain track position on their rival?
“We actually stayed out [initially],” said Perez, “but I asked the team, ‘Are we sure about it?’ because we’ve done that in a couple of races and it didn’t work, and here being so cold, it was going to be really difficult to restart the tyres. So we boxed and we ended up in the same position, so I think that was a good call from the team.
“Then at the restart it was again very close, good racing with Danny, and Max [Verstappen]. I couldn’t get [Ricciardo] and after that, we were just the same to the finish line.”
Despite missing out on the podium, however, Perez was still pleased with Racing Point’s performance, as they overcame a disappointing performance on Saturday to outscore rivals McLaren and claim P3 in the constructors’ – helped too by Lance Stroll replacement Nico Hulkenberg’s strong showing, after he climbed from P20 on the grid to P8.
“I was expecting a very painful day in the championship,” said Perez. “But Nico has done a tremendous job, and good points for the championship… We came strong out of a bad day [on Saturday]. We had a solid start, good first lap and in general, I’m pleased with how my race went.”