Sergio Perez felt helpless as the timing of a safety car period in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix spoiled what had looked like a perfect race weekend as the Red Bull driver slipped from the lead to finish fourth.
A stunning first career Formula 1 pole position on Saturday was followed by a strong opening stint from Perez on Sunday night, with the Mexican looking comfortable ahead of Charles Lerclerc and Max Verstappen. However, when Nicholas Latifi crashed immediately after Perez made his first pit stop, the ensuing safety car allowed Leclerc, Verstappen and Carlos Sainz to pit and emerge ahead of the previous leader, ultimately preventing him from even scoring a podium.
“We had a good start and, basically, after the first stint everything felt under control,” Perez said. “We had a good first, long stint and then, later on, we had the issue with the safety car and that ruined our race weekend. There was nothing else I could really do.”
However, despite the misfortune, Perez says there are plenty of positives for him and Red Bull to reflect on from the first two rounds of the season.
“Definitely. Yesterday, putting it on pole, today having the race pace in place, and, obviously, Max’s win is a great boost for the team. We got the pole yesterday, we got the win today; so although I’m very frustrated today, I take the positives, as a team we did a fantastic job and I’m very happy for everybody at Milton Keynes that did an outstanding job.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had sympathy for Perez, despite the team still taking victory with Verstappen.
“Desperately disappointing for Checo because what an incredible lap to get that pole yesterday,” Horner said. “He then converted that into the lead. He was controlling the race beautifully — we pitted on the lap that we discussed pre-race and then bang, a safety car. As we know, a safety car, sometimes they work for you, sometimes they work against you, and it was very unlucky for him today.”