‘Safety Car came at the wrong time’ says Perez as he shrugs off brake fire to finish sixth at Monza
Sergio Perez started 13th and finished sixth, behind Lewis Hamilton, at Monza. Afterwards the Red Bull driver explained that the late Safety Car dashed his hopes of passing the Mercedes - and why smoke was coming out of his car early in the race.
Perez qualified fourth before grid penalties were applied, and ended up pitting earliest of everyone, swapping his starting set of medium tyres for hards on Lap 7. He then switched to softs on Lap 42 with a view to making up time and perhaps snag a top-five finish at Hamilton’s expense.
But the Mexican accepted that P6 was the “maximum” he could have achieved given the late Safety Car - called on Lap 48 of 53 when Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren stopped trackside - stalling his progress.
“I think after what happened early on in the race, that was pretty much the maximum,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think I lost the positions to Lewis because I felt like I could have gone to the end on the hard tyre but also if we were to race until the end on the softs, we could have got him back but unfortunately the Safety Car came at the wrong time.”
Perez’s car had earlier caused concern at his first pit stop, with the Red Bull’s brake disc emitting smoke and small flickers of flames that thankfully soon dissipated.
“Yeah, basically my front-right disc was on fire,” he said, “so we boxed and then we spent a few laps with the front right disc on fire and then I had to bring it [the brake temperature] back down.
“So when I was on the hard [tyre], I had to massively manage the brakes to make sure that I could bring them back down.”
Combined with team mate Max Verstappen's win, Perez's result - which included an extra point for fastest lap - helped Red Bull extend their title advantage to 139 points over Ferrari, the team in blue hoping to win their first constructors' championship since 2013.