Perez ‘close to retiring’ before clinching Baku win
Sergio Perez revealed that he was on the verge of having to retire from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but held on just long enough to cross the line and claim his first victory for Red Bull.
“We were close to retiring the car, but luckily we managed to finish the race,” he told the media in parc ferme immediately after a dramatic finish to the street race in Baku. “It was quite difficult all the way until the end.”
Immediately after claiming the chequered flag, Perez was told to stop straight away at pit exit in turn 1 rather than continue with the usual cool-down lap on the way back to pit lane.
- Read also: Perez wins Baku shoot-out after Verstappen disaster
It meant that Perez had to make his way back to the paddock on foot to receive the congratulations of the team for stepping in and delivering victory after Max Verstappen suffered a late tyre failure.
Red Bull principal Christian Horner explained that Perez had been suffering from a hydraulic problem in the final laps of the race and nearly didn’t complete the final two-lap shoot-out following the red flag stoppage for Verstappen’s exit.
“He was nursing an hydraulic issue,” Horner stated. “We were really concerned that the car wouldn’t get to the end of the race, which is why he stopped after the chequered flag.
“You thought that we could only lose when they got the restart, but thankfully it all worked out tremendously well, and Sergio did a great, great job.
“Sergio was fast all weekend. His pace was impressive from the start. Maybe he could have caught Max with the overcut if the pit stop had been quicker. In any case, it would have been very tight.”
The way that Perez was able to step up to claim the win in Baku after Verstappen was forced out was exactly what the team had been hoping for when they deiced to hire the veteran driver for 2021 in place of Alex Albon.
“First of all I have to say I’m very sorry for Max because he did a tremendous race and he really deserved that the win,” Perez said.
“It would have been incredible to get that 1-2 for the team,” he continued. “But at the end you know it is a fantastic day for us.”
Perez inherited the lead after Verstappen crashed out, but struggled to hold onto it when the race resumed with a standing start with two laps to go.
It looked like Lewis Hamilton had got the advantage into turn 1, but the Mercedes locked up and ran on.
“At the start, I had a poor start and he was alongside me but I was like, I’m not going to miss it,” Perez recalled. “I broke as late as I possibly can and he did the same – but it didn’t work for him!”
With neither Verstappen nor Hamilton scoring points in Baku, and Valtteri Bottas also finishing outside of the top ten, Perez has moved into third place in the drivers championship after six rounds of the 2021 season.
And his victory means that Red Bull have pulled out a 26 point lead over Mercedes in the constructors standings.
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