Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer insists he could not have done anything more to keep Sergio Perez more informed about his future with the team before signing Sebastian Vettel.
Perez announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving Racing Point at the end of the season despite having two more years on his contract, with Vettel’s arrival coinciding with the team being rebranded as Aston Martin in 2021. Perez then claimed on Thursday that he had only had confirmation the day of the announcement, and that Racing Point had not told him what was coming – something Szafnauer disputes.
“We did keep Sergio up to date, as well as his manager Julian (Jakobi),” Szafnauer said. “When the decision is a difficult one and it hasn’t been made, there isn’t really much more than you can say. So I don’t think we could have said anything more, otherwise we’d be guessing what the future was.”
While it is bringing in a multiple world champion to replace Perez, Szafnauer admits Racing Point is losing a strong driver from its line-up.
“He knows the team well, he’s got loads of experience, he’s a a tenacious racer come Sunday, he’s a good qualifier, rarely makes mistakes, brings him the points, if there’s a sniff of a podium he’s usually there,” he said. “So yeah, we are giving away quite a bit, and I wish Checo the best of luck, and he deserves to be in Formula 1. I hope that he can find a spot and that we’re racing against him next year.”
Szafnauer also explained that Perez had clauses in his contract that allowed for an early split, whereas teammate Lance Stroll – team owner Lawrence’s son – did not have the same options. Despite the Stroll presence, the team principal expects to see Vettel performing at his best, and says the two drivers will be free to race each other.
“What makes us confident that he’ll return to the Seb of old? He’s 33 years old — he’s still in the prime of his career — he’s got a vast amount of experience, he’s still highly motivated to do well, he works really hard and we believe with our team and what we want to take it to and the level that we want to get to, Seb’s a perfect fit for that.
“I’m confident that he’ll race well. We’ve always allowed our drivers to race each other, and that will be the same in the future.”