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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Perez "didn't see" Verstappen in near-miss in Austria F1 sprint

Sergio Perez reckons he lost sight of Red Bull Formula 1 team-mate Max Verstappen to trigger their near-miss in the wet sprint race for the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Saturday polesitter Verstappen complained of wheelspin off the line in the slippery conditions. This delay allowed Perez to dive up the inside into the Turn 1 right-hander.

But Perez’s tight line on entry forced him wide over the painted exit kerbs, which meant he lost traction and then appeared to drift back across the circuit to the inside.

That delay under acceleration allowed Verstappen to reel in his team-mate but as Perez moved more towards the right, the Dutch driver briefly clipped the grass to avoid contact.

Perez reckoned that, owing to the spray, he had not seen his team-mate in this moment.

Verstappen’s initial reaction over team radio was: “He pushed me off. What the fuck”.

At the end of the 24-lap race, he added: “The exit of Turn 1 was not really nice. That could have been a really big shunt. We need to have a chat about that. It was not OK.”

The pair then had a discussion in the safety car garage and seemed to come away with some clarity on the incident as neither stoked the battle in their parc ferme interviews.

Perez said he had been unable to see his team-mate but when he realised, handed back the position. The Mexican explained: “We had a good start.

“A bit of a fight with Max and that obviously gave a position to Nico [Hulkenberg] which he was very strong in the first few laps, so it was quite hard to get by him.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, the rest of the field at the start of the Sprint

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, the rest of the field at the start of the Sprint

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“I think Max was angry that I went into Turn 2, but I didn't see him there. I just had a very bad Turn 1, so I tried to protect but once I realised that he was there I opened up the door and gave the place back into Turn 2.

“But it is all fine. We just spoke about it. Even though we were 1-2, it was very bad the visibility out there."

Perez still led the opening lap into Turn 3 but lost time at the apex as his path was blocked by Verstappen, who struggled to slow the rear axle and ran deep into the corner.

That delay enabled Verstappen to seize the lead, which he extended through drying conditions to win the sprint race by 21.048s over Perez, who claimed the sizeable gap was owed to him managing the intermediate tyres.

Verstappen’s take on the battle with Perez was: “It was a little bit of a hairy moment out of Turn 1 and of course when you get forced on to the grass,  it's very slippery.

“But we managed to keep the car under control and from there once we just did our race.”

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