Sergio Perez insists he was never worried he might lose third place in the French Grand Prix due to his overtaking move on Valtteri Bottas.
Bottas was struggling with his tires in the closing stages of the race and Perez had made his one and only pit stop seven laps later than the Finn, so closed in on fresher rubber. After pulling alongside on the run to Signes, Perez was completely ahead on the outside but ran slightly off track on the exit and was investigated for the move but cleared by the stewards to retain his podium.
“It was quite tricky because we were reaching the lapped cars, with the DRS and the traffic ahead it was pretty hard,” Perez said. “I went around him into Turn 10. I was already ahead, I tried to give him as much room as possible so that meant I went off the track. I came back and basically I had no advantage as the move was already done and it was mainly done to give him room and to avoid any possible contact at that point.”
Escaping a penalty ensured Perez backed up his win in Baku with a podium at Paul Ricard and he says the consecutive strong results bode well for his season.
“We’ve had a good race. We found the track conditions very different today to what we expected, especially at the start of the race. We had very little grip — running less downforce on the car to the Mercedes made our first stint pretty tricky. My first five laps and the last five laps of my first stint, if you take them away then my race could have looked a lot better.
“We did a good strategy. We went very long on that first stint, which really paid out. We lacked a couple of laps to get Lewis as well. But it’s a good result for the team and it’s showing that definitely there’s some good progress and we have to keep working on it to get this consistency and take another step very soon.”
For Bottas’ part, he believes he was powerless to hold Perez off but didn’t chase the extra point for the fastest lap because Mercedes felt the Mexican might get a penalty.
“In Turn 10, he was on the outside and he went slightly wide,” Bottas said. “But I think it was a matter of time for him to get through … We thought Sergio might get a penalty.
“I think I was one of the first ones to stop — my left-front tire wear was quite high. In the last 10 or 15 laps of the race there wasn’t much left, and at the end of the race I could see the canvas. It was not great, that’s why it was so tricky.”