Sergio Perez, Lewis Hamilton, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi, 2021

Plan to delay Hamilton “worked perfectly” says Perez after praise from Verstappen

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez says he is “extremely happy” to have contributed to team mate Max Verstappen’s world championship win after holding up Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Verstappen called his team mate a “legend” on his radio after Perez helped him gain over seven seconds on his championship rival.

Running on heavily worn tyres Perez deliberately, but cleanly, obstructed Hamilton when the Mercedes driver caught him after his first pit stop. Perez fought hard to keep Hamilton behind him for over a lap, during which time Verstappen closed on the pair of them. After Hamilton finally found a way through, Perez immediately pulled aside to let Verstappen by.

Perez’s involvement in the fight at the front proved vital later in the race. It ensured Verstappen was close enough that Mercedes could not pit Hamilton during the subsequent Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car periods without dropping him behind his championship rival.

After Verstappen went on to claim the world championship with a pass on the very final lap, Perez said he was happy to play his part in his team mate’s success by executing the strategy his team had planned prior to the race.

“It worked perfectly,” said Perez. “It was crucial at that time of the race, because I knew that basically Lewis had the race under control.

“He had the Virtual Safety Car and Safety Car windows pretty much open and he could have done whatever he wanted at the time. So it was critical. At the end of the day, I’m happy that I’ve helped Max and the team.”

Hamilton initially passed Perez with DRS on the run to turn six, but Perez managed to force his way back past the Mercedes on the straight leading to turn nine, where he deliberately slowed to hold the Mercedes up further.

“I think getting him back out of six was the key to it,” he said. “I’m just happy that it worked out because I could have cost him half a second at the time, but I’m just happy that I got him a bit longer.”

“It’s not a place that you want to be, but at the same time I will always put my team above anything,” Perez added. “Max has been a great team mate since day one to me. And the team have been fantastic to me, and I was in a position to support my team mate. I’m extremely happy for everyone.”

Red Bull later called Perez in to retire during the Safety Car period in the closing laps, which guaranteed the constructors’ championship for Mercedes. While Perez admit he feels it was a “shame” that Red Bull were unable to take the constructors’ championship alongside the drivers, he understood why the team had called him into retirement over concerns he might suffer a failure on his car which would deny Verstappen an opportunity to race Hamilton at the very end.

“I didn’t know anything at the time, but obviously the engine was on the limit,” Perez explained. The last thing we wanted to have is a failure and then not have the opportunity for Max to have that lap.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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36 comments on “Plan to delay Hamilton “worked perfectly” says Perez after praise from Verstappen”

  1. Fantastic job of Perez.
    And unlike what Hamilton and Toto said: no dangerous driving!
    This was hard, but clean racing, by both drivers.

  2. This battle really was the positive outstanding moment of this race for me. Great defencive racing from Perez and great racing of both him and Hamilton together.

  3. Nah, it just looked like good defending because one driver was extremely nervous of being swiped out of the race either on purpose or by accident and was being overly cautious and waiting for an easier pass down the straight.

    1. Rightly so and Perez should start acting like Ma, managed to mount an attack after that… Lewis dropped Max after passing Checo

  4. Superb effort from Checo, the ultimate team mate. Max clearly gets the most from his team simply by being straightforward.

    As someone else pointed out, Checo’s efforts made a Mercedes precautionary tyre stop for Lewis under VSC too risky a proposition with only a few seconds gained after delay behind the RB. With a cool head and hindsight however that Lewis/Mercedes combo had enough pace to repass Max on track, they were simply too cautious, and paid the ultimate price.

    1. There would have been no pass for the lead in the last lap if Hamilton was behind. Hamilton could have been in a jet and Horner would
      Have pulled a shoulder launched SAM from under the pit wall table lol. Seriously, verstappen would have made sure that ended in at least one busted car.

      So in a way this showed how Mercedes was cowed by verstappens bullying tactics in Brazil and Jeddah. They had to factor in that RBR would hit below the belt and that Masi would let it slide, despite his cautions before the race. This made them I’m sure much less keen on risking track position for a stop.

      However we must remember that anyone reading the rule book would have expected only two outcomes. 1. Race ends under caution or 2. Lapped cars stay put. In either case Mercedes would have committed the howler of all times in F1 by pitting.

      1. @dmw
        Hamilton was able to put a fight in that last lap with 40 laps old hard tyre and no DRS against Verstappen on had a new set of soft tyres. While it is risky to fight Verstappen for position because it was clear that RBR have thrown everything at track position in this race counting also on Verstappen aggressive defensive driving.

        Though whenever he had the car working this year was able (Portugal, Spain…) to pass Verstappen. Surprised Mercedes didn’t went for that call and this wasn’t the first time this year because Lewis on 40 laps old hard tyre was a sitting duck against Verstappen.

        With regard to the possibility of a race ending crash. Mercedes and Hamilton had the psychological advantage in that scenario because Verstappen has been already tagged as the villain. The fact that the first lap incident wasn’t even investigated despite Hamilton cutting the corner and gaining an advantage shows that the Stewards weren’t biased towards Max.

  5. Was a great performance of defensive driving by Perez, and of course it’s part of a ‘team sport’, but I can’t stand tactics like that. Goes all the way back to when Ferrari used to use Schumacher’s #2 (and sometimes Saubers) tactically, I’ve always disliked it and always will.

    1. @neilosjames
      Yes, that makes me mad as well. I can understand it from a team’s perspective, but it turns almost into unsportsmanlike behaviour, when done too obviously or involving asssociated teams (Mercedes inter-team order at the DTM finale this season).

      I actually didn’t know about Fontana holding up Villeneuve so obviously at the ’97 season finale. That looked really ugly and definitely unsportsmanlike.
      I’m pretty sure that was some sort of revenge from Ferrari to Williams, for what happened the race before at Suzuka. Hill was holding up Schumacher every bit as obvious as Fontana did Villeneuve and then immediately let Frentzen pass in the Willliams.

      1. @srga91 Also, Williams and McLaren had made a pact before the race at Jerez that Hakkinen and Coulthard would not hold up Villeneuve if it came to that. Ron Dennis and Patrick Head were hardly paragons any more so than Jean Todt or Ross Brawn.

        1. I didn’t know there was actually a pact between both teams, just that Villeneuve let them through on purpose.
          It’s a joke that they weren’t punished for this. It was blatant match fixing.
          Do you, by any chance, know why McLaren agreed on this pact, @wsrgo? I know Ron Dennis isn’t famous for his high morals, but striking up such a deal rather surprises me.

        2. And qualifying was obviously fixed or hacked or whatever, I mean what are the chances?!

      2. Wow. Thanks for that video. Imagine that happening now in the social media age. Also, those cars sounded great!

        1. Well, Schumacher crashed into Hill for the ’94 championship, so the hold-up was just fair.

    2. Not like Mercedes haven’t tried this, but unfortunately Bottas can’t defend if his life depended on it.

      Trying out how far the engine can be pushed in Bottas’s car for Hamilton is no problem for you?

    3. @neilosjames – Not knocking your opinion, but disagree.

      If Perez had been a lap down, then yes, dirty tactics and that should be punished so it isn’t repeated. If Perez had blocked Hamilton illegally or in a dirty way, immediately punish. But:
      1) They were racing for position,
      2) Perez is Verstappen’s teammate, so trying to help him win WDC
      3) Also RBR was trying to beat Merc to the WCC title.

      Perez was 100% correct to cleanly delay anyone behind him except Verstappen.

  6. Driver of the day for me.
    To be able to hold up someone of Lewis’s abilities for so long is an achievement that any driver should be pleased with.
    This is what being a second driver and part of a team is about.

    1. @nullapax that’s probably the most insulting statement ever made to any driver, let alone a F1 driver.

      1. @freelittlebirds Reality can often seem insulting.

        1. @nullapax sadly, that’s true. Perez’s best drive amounted to an obstacle as the official #2 driver. He should have retired last year.

  7. Initially I did not think of Perez’s contribution as that significant, because Hamilton retained the lead and was able to build the gap again. But on further consideration, those eight seconds Hamilton lost would probably have been enough to pit under the final safety car and retain the lead.
    By contrast, where was the second driver of Mercedes all weekend? If Bottas had done his job properly and be in P3 or P4, he could not only have tried what Perez did (especially since he started on medium tyres!), although I agree with @neilosjames that is not something I like to see, but he also should have prevented Verstappen making one free pitstop after another.
    So indeed, Perez played a vital part in Max winning the championship, and Bottas a part in Lewis losing it.

    1. @adrianmorse
      Bottas biggest contribution to Hamilton’s campaign was taking out verstappen in Hungary

      Despite bottas being used quantitively more times to hinder verstappen, Perez’s single contribution here exceeded all of it

    2. Which was why Masi didn’t clear the lapped cars in front of Sainz and Bottas. It would not have added anymore delay. He didn’t want any risk to Verstappen from Sainz or Bottas.

  8. Masterclass from Perez, and really shows up how rusty Ham has become competing against himself for the last seven years.

    And to hear him cry dangerous driving was utterly ridiculous, like a sneaky snitch. Just shows how entitled hes become, and for that alone he didn’t deserve the title.

    1. Completely wrong. Hamilton needs to finish the race and can’t risk contact against Perez positioning his car in crazy positions and extremely slow speeds. He lost 7 seconds to Max in half a lap. To me that speed difference is dangerous. Hamilton played it spot on. Safe yet aggressive. No rust when you dominate two RedBulls alone! Max had no chance this weekend without Masi.

      1. exaggeration to emphasize the power of your statement :-)
        never 7 seconds in half a lap…
        from lap 20 to lap 21, from about 8 to about 3,5 seconds, and later in lap 21 to 1,1
        Speed difference wasn’t as if one was going 300, and the other 100.
        Dominate 2 Red Bulls? Come on now… there is something with Lewis’ Mercedes since Brazil…his Mercedes was dominant

      2. It’s not like Perez could risk to touch Hamilton.
        Imagine what would happen if he crashed Hamilton? Don’t you think they would immediately investigate?

        (Which, btw, is exactly what Bottas did to Verstappen, but nothing came of that of course. But if it is the last race, the rules for contact change all of a sudden)

  9. I would not say perfectly because verstappen didn’t get into Hamilton’s drs. Not quite. Hamilton was quite good in keeping his cool as Perez dawdled around the infield while verstappen closed on him. Hamilton a couple times avoided closing the door on Perez knowing that this was really RBR baiting him into a race ending clash with Perez. And really it was their only play because their soft tire gambit was disastrous. And Hamilton was just working down the laps like a machine. So I guess both sides worked with what they had to the maximum, almost.

  10. This is exactly why Perez got the job and Bottas lost it.

  11. Great driving by Checo yesterday. For any thinking this was anything other good strategy by Red Bull cast your mind back to Lewis driving excessively closely in 2016 finale attempting to back Nico up into Vettel.

  12. Checo was far and away my Driver of the Day! RBR needs to give him a massive pile of cash for his performance. Just stellar, clean, hard racing and a true demonstration of a team player. The only thing that marred that performance was Toto whining on the radio to the race director about non-existent “dangerous driving”. Honestly, all teams should be banned from talking with the race director during the race. Toto and Horner sound like siblings lobbying their parents about why the other one is to blame. Pathetic.

  13. great job perez driving like a maniac trying to wreck lewis and RB clearly underfueling and running an illegal car so he could do his one job and try to affect Hamiltons race. for a mediocre driver his car did look more lively than usual, this is also why RB suddenly boxed and DNF as the car didn’t have enough fuel to reach the end and rb did not want to bring out a caution that would effect max’s last lap also thry could avoid scrutineering for an illegal car with a dnf.

    Congrats to rb number two lap dog perez, carlos slim will be proud, without his billions he wouldn’t even be in F1.

    Thats my take.

    1. @ccpbioweapon Comments like these are why no one takes your comments on Guanyu Zhou seriously.

  14. Hamilton lobbying again with his ‘dangerous driving’ lie.
    Look on youtube, Lewis is probably the most disliked ‘sportsman’ now.

    1. I often do seek out YouTube comments sections for the most informed and articulate opinions on any subject. Thanks for the tip.

  15. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
    14th December 2021, 1:26

    The Peter Collins of our time, but like less talented

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