Perez “hurt” by safety car timing in Saudi Arabian GP victory fight

Sergio Perez was confident he was in the victory fight while leading the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix until the timing of the safety car “hurt” his strategy.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

The Red Bull driver led the opening 14 laps of the Saudi Arabian GP but saw his race wrecked by a safety car period just one lap after his pitstop, when Nicholas Latifi crashed at the final corner.

The safety car period allowed his frontrunning rivals a cheap pitstop, initially pushing Perez back to third, before the Mexican was instructed to allow Carlos Sainz Jr to pass him at the safety car restart having been judged to have passed the Ferrari driver when he exited the pitlane.

With Perez relegated to fourth place, he was unable to charge back up the order and missed out on the podium having been certain a fight for the win had been on.

"This is just racing especially when we knew that we could be in that situation,” Perez told Sky Sports F1 about the safety car period.

“We had the undercut and the margin that we were looking for, we got it, and things were looking really good but unfortunately Latifi put it in the wall at the wrong time for me.

Marshals remove the damaged car of Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44, from the circuit

Marshals remove the damaged car of Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW44, from the circuit

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“This is racing. It will come around for us one day but it hurts because we did everything we possibly could do win this race from pole.”

Perez said he had no issue with conceding a place to Sainz at the safety car restart but also lamented his luck in the closing stages when yellow flags denied him a late attack on Sainz.

“I was told to give the place back, so I gave it back. I felt that was fair enough,” Perez said, who avoided a penalty after a post-race investigation for failing to slow under the yellow flags, along with Sainz and Kevin Magnussen.

“After the virtual safety car I think I picked up a bit of speed, I came close, but then there was the yellow flags on the finals laps so I had to slow down and I couldn’t do much more.”

Sainz agreed with Perez’s assessment about their fight for third place, while he was content with his own performance having closed the pace gap to team-mate Charles Leclerc.

“It was a close call there with Checo but in the end, I think he got a bit unlucky with a safety car obviously but the rules are the rules,” Sainz said.

“I think I was just ahead at the safety car line which it was my position then and since then it was all about holding on to P3.

“The Red Bulls were super quick in the last 10 laps after the tyres cooled down on the virtual safety car. They were flying and they were putting pressure on us.

“For me this race was a bit of progress from Bahrain I think I managed to find a bit more rhythm with a car. Still some tenths to find but I think I will end up getting there.”

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