RACE DEBRIEF

    Sergio Perez might have wrapped up his best ever finish of second in the drivers’ championship, but he had mixed feelings at the conclusion of the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

    The Mexican had started down in ninth, but was able to make headway in the early stages. A long second stint on the hard tyre paid dividends for Perez, who found himself in with a shout of a podium finish, running with much fresher rubber than his rivals.

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    But he made contact with Lando Norris when they were fighting for fourth place into Turn 6, Perez diving down the inside and the two banging wheels. That sent Norris wide and off the track, and while Perez picked him off on the next lap, the stewards took a dim view of the incident and awarded the Red Bull driver a five-second time penalty.

    2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Perez picks up penalty for contact with Norris

    “It is frustrating at times,” he said afterwards. “I’ve seen the incident and from my opinion… You’ve got to remember that when we dive into the inside of someone from behind, we are braking later than we can, so we are not totally at full control.

    “As I was braking I couldn’t control fully the car and Lando [Norris] at the same time decided to turn as if there was no one in the corner, so we ended up making contact, but it was tyre-to-tyre. He cut the corner, he gained some time… I think it was just a racing incident, to be honest.”

    Perez took off down the road in pursuit of George Russell, that time penalty adding some intrigue in the last few laps. Russell needed to finish third to score enough points for Mercedes to finish ahead of Ferrari, and when Perez got past, he tried to stay within five seconds.

    READ MORE: ‘P2 is all that mattered’ – Leclerc explains late-race tactics with Perez in bid to help Ferrari overhaul Mercedes

    Charles Leclerc then got in on the act, letting Perez through in the hopes he could build enough of a gap to deny the Mercedes but it was not to be and second across the line became fourth on the timing sheets.

    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red
    Perez lit up the race with his overtakes, but couldn't manage a last-gasp podium

    “I don’t know if the one-stop was possible,” he said when he reflected on his race. “It’s something we have to look at and review. Other than that, just happy with the whole team, they did a tremendous job.”

    With Red Bull long since wrapping up the constructors’, Perez was already in a reflective mood as his thoughts turned to 2024 and what he wants to aim for next season.

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    “One more [position] better,” was his immediate response. “I think we need better pace, better consistency – we went through a bit of a rollercoaster this year. Next year we have a new opportunity and to be honest, I felt I was not totally at one with this year’s car.

    “The last few races have been a lot stronger for us, but we have to give credit to Max [Verstappen]. He’s done the best season in history and been outstanding.”