Why Perez didn’t get the penalty Mercedes were hoping for

2021 French Grand Prix

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After Valtteri Bottas lost third place to Sergio Perez with four laps to go in the French Grand Prix, Mercedes had an opportunity to bag a bonus point for fastest lap.

With a 45-second gap to Lando Norris behind, the team could easily afford to bring Bottas in, fit a fresh set of tyres and ensure he bagged the bonus point for fastest lap.

However the team chose not to. As Bottas explained afterwards, this was because they were hoping he would get his third place back.

When Sergio Perez passed Bottas, he put all four wheels wide at the exit of Signes. The stewards announced they would investigate whether he’d gained an advantage while passing Bottas.

“We thought maybe Sergio was going to get penalty for overtaking off of the track,” said Bottas when asked why he hadn’t pitted to take a fresh set of tyres at that point.

As far as Perez was concerned, the fact he’d gone off-track made no difference to his move on Bottas. “I went around him into turn 10 [Signes],” he explained. “I was already ahead but I tried to give him as much room as possible. That meant I went off the track.

“I came back and basically I had no advantage because the move was already done. It was mainly done to give him room and avoid any possible contact at that point.”

After looking at the incident, the stewards quickly decided to take no action against the Red Bull drivers. “The stewards determined that Perez had fully completed the pass on Bottas by the time he left the track at turn 10,” they stated. “This made the fact that he left the track subsequently as a standard ‘track limits’ question.

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“The stewards determined that Perez lost sufficient ground in the following turn that he could not be deemed to have ‘gained a lasting advantage.'”

On the face of it Mercedes had some cause to feel optimistic about their chances of getting the place back. Perez’s move had the hallmarks of Max Verstappen’s late-race pass on Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain, though on a considerably quicker corner. On that occasion, Verstappen had to surrender the place he gained.

However the stewards concluded the two incidents were dissimilar, as FIA race director Michael Masi explained.

“The stewards deemed that the overtaking manoeuvre had actually been completed firstly before Sergio left the track,” said Masi. “Once he did leave the track, the stewards also deemed that he gave back any lasting advantage immediately. So accordingly, they found that no further action was required in that circumstance.

“If we look at it, probably comparing it to the incident in Bahrain earlier in the year, where Max, on the other hand, actually overtook another car off the track which was Lewis at the time, and that’s why it was deemed that he had to give the position back. So two very different circumstances when trying to compare those two incidents.”

Masi said another incident involving Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris, in which the McLaren driver strenuously complained about his rival forcing him wide, was considered the team.

“The overtaking manoeuvre was well and truly completed by that point [when Gasly left the track]. So therefore any advantage that was gained given up and accordingly, it wasn’t warranted to be referred to the stewards. It was very similar to Checo’s.”

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2021 French Grand Prix

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17 comments on “Why Perez didn’t get the penalty Mercedes were hoping for”

  1. I’m not particularly worked up about either incident but I think the race stewards need to be clear that the lasting advantage from going off may have been gained BEFORE you went off, and not just after.

    Put simply, if you made the pass because you carried too much speed to keep the car on the track, you’ve already gained the advantage. Losing time in the next corner is irrelevant.

    Snap judgment from me of the little I saw of the two incidents – Perez only went off because he was conscious of changing direction extra smoothly after passing in a high speed corner, I don’t think he was too fast to keep on track if he wanted to. Gasly arguably carried too much speed through the apex, but Lando passed him back anyway. No action in both cases was the right decision.

    1. Can we promote @David to 4th steward please?

    2. Well said on all acounts David.

  2. RandomMallard (@)
    20th June 2021, 21:56

    Considering Perez finished nearly 6 seconds ahead of Bottas, the likely five second penalty had they given a penalty wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.

  3. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    20th June 2021, 21:59

    You’d think that the people at Mercedes would be smarter than to think this would result in a penalty and count on that as a reason to not pick up an extra point. Guess the geniusses at Mercedes aren’t as smart as they think they are. Just as with missing a chance to gain a benefit from the flexi rear wing and tyre pressure.

    1. Maybe you should apply for a job in Mercedes mate.
      Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

      1. Doubt he’d ever qualify for a job there.

  4. So, two paybacks: one for the Barcelona tyre strategy, another for that Verstappen Bahrain overtake.

    Both teams were at lost at Baku, so I think they’re even now on luck, strategy and race control requests. ;-)

    Now it’s time to race. One for each team in the next two Austrian GPs? Championship decided only in December? One can always dream…

  5. I was surprised they gifted another point to Verstappen. This is going to be a close season and that fastest lap bonus point might be the difference.

    1. @trido True. Mercedes first used Bottas as a roadblock to Verstappen, which didn’t work out. Then the only sensible thing to do was to take away Verstappen’s bonus point, which they didn’t do as suddenly a potential 3rd place for Bottas was more important. 2nd and 4th without the fastest lap was about the worst possible outcome for Mercedes.

  6. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    21st June 2021, 3:15

    Bottas ran wide himself and didn’t follow the correct route.
    More and more I find Mercedes just to be sore losers, more and more playing politics, trying to present them as underdog (while they are clearly not), crying wolf over nothing etc.

    I really hope that Mercedes next year have a 2020 Ferrari season or a 2017 Mclaren season – serves them right and maybe gets them humble again rather than acting entitled.

    1. @jelle-van-der-meer Bottas ran wide himself and didn’t follow the correct route.

      Yes noticed those comments while following race here on RaceFans, but seems to have been “forgotten” since.
      Personally I thought those incidents cancelled each other out, and perhaps while not to the “letter of the law” , I was OK with no heavy handed stewards intervention.

    2. This is an interesting perspective. I had no idea it was Mercedes were the stewards as well – deciding which incidents to investigate or not (and flashing the updates on the broadcast). Now I know.

  7. I’m surprised the brief excursion at Signes exit wasn’t obvious from the helicopter view at the time.

  8. I’m just glad that those who were angry about certain drivers going outside the white lines and receiving no penalty for it earlier in the season are much more mellow and relaxed about the subject now that it doesn’t even get a mention. Long may it continue.

    1. True, that’s a good thing.

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