‘We gave the podium to Ricciardo’ – Perez rues ‘painful’ Racing Point strategy call
When Max Verstappen spun out of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a suspected rear tyre puncture, it looked like Sergio Perez was going to score a remarkable podium from P11 on the grid. But as the Safety Car was called, his Racing Point team made the call to pit him for fresh tyres, dropping him from third to sixth – where he eventually finished – and promoting Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo to P3. Afterwards, the Mexican couldn’t hide his disappointment, suggesting the team had effectively handed the podium to their biggest rivals…
That he’d end the race with a frown on his face was hard on Perez, who’d performed superbly to get himself into position to profit from Verstappen’s misfortune. He’d run a long stint on the medium tyre to overcut several drivers who stayed ahead of him on softs, including Ricciardo’s Renault.
But despite there being less than a quarter of the race remaining, overtaking proving very tricky and the Mexican having much fresher tyres than those behind, Racing Point decided to give up track position for fresh rubber under the Safety Car – a decision Perez couldn’t get his head around when he spoke to the media.
It's a painful day because we had the podium in the pocket
“I don’t know – I guess the team at that time have more information,” he said, shaking his head. “I think already it was really clear on my side that overtaking was extremely difficult – we had no straight line speed. We spent the whole first stint – the last 10 laps of Kimi’s stint – behind him, we couldn’t pass him. There weren’t many laps left…
“Overtaking today was extremely difficult. I haven’t spoken to the team yet, so they might have some reasons for it. Just a painful day because we had the podium in the pocket. It’s hard to digest, very disappointed as I am right now. We are a team and we lose and also win together. In hindsight it was the wrong call today.”
What was particularly galling for Perez to accept was how well it had gone up to that point – and the implications of the decision, with Racing Point slipping from third to fifth in the constructors’ standings as Renault moved into the coveted spot behind Mercedes and Red Bull.
“It was a fantastic day - from all the narrative we can take a lot of positives,” the Mexican said. “That first stint was tremendous. Great strategy, great calls from the team. We put ourselves in the position to get that podium.
"But it is a painful day, you know, and also a painful day in the championship. Our competition… we basically gave the podium to Ricciardo.”
Perez extended his point-scoring streak to eight races, but with no seat on the grid for next year as things stand, he is running out of chances to bag that ninth career podium – unless he can win a place with another team.
“In Formula 1 if you don’t have something signed, everything is in the air,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.”