Sergio Perez was left proud of the job he did delaying Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, keeping Max Verstappen in the fight to eventually win the drivers’ championship.
Hamilton led comfortably after overtaking Verstappen at the start on Sunday, and looked set to cruise to victory after an early set of pit stops left him nearly nine seconds clear of his title rival. Perez ran long in the first stint and then fought with Hamilton for over a lap, with his car positioning through the final sector costing the Mercedes driver a lot of time and bringing Verstappen back into the mix.
“It was crucial that time of the race,” Perez said. “I knew that Lewis had the race under control, he had the safety car and VSC windows pretty much open, he could do whatever he wanted. He had the race under control so it was critical but at the same time, I was on extremely old tires.
“It worked well. At the end of the day, I’m happy I helped Max and the team. You don’t want to interfere too much in drivers’ championship, but I think above anything, I will always help my team.
“For it to work – it worked perfectly – I think getting him back, out of Turn 6, was the key to it. As I say, just happy It worked out because I could have cost him half a second, but I’m just happy that I cost him a bit longer.
“I was in a position where I had not much to lose. Not a place you want to be, but at the same time, I will always put my team above anything.
“It was a gamble, because at the point, you’re just a piece of cake, after 18, 19 laps on soft tires and Lewis on fresh rubber. But it worked well, those are the things, like the tow, if you don’t plan it, things can go really wrong.”
Epic stuff at the front as race leader Sergio Perez battles hard to keep Lewis Hamilton frustrated
Hamilton eventually gets past to take P1, but his lead over Verstappen is cut to two seconds
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 12, 2021
Perez appeared set for a podium before retiring during the final safety car period, and he revealed it was a conservative decision regarding power unit reliability to ensure nothing else could delay the race restart.
“I didn’t know anything at the time, but obviously the engine was on the limit, the last thing that we wanted to have a failure and then not have the opportunity for Max to have that lap.”