Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Losail International Circuit, 2023

‘I’d like to blame him but I can’t’: Trio cleared over sprint race crash

Formula 1

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Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg avoided a penalty over the collision which put all three out of Saturday’s sprint race – and ended the contest for the 2023 drivers’ title.

Max Verstappen was assured of the title when his team mate was eliminated in the lap 11 collision. Perez needed to out-score him by more than five points to keep his championship chances alive.

The collision occured as Ocon, holding eighth place on soft tyres, came under attack from Hulkenberg and Perez, both on mediums. Ocon held the inside line approaching turn two with Hulkenberg to his right and Perez on the right of the Haas.

As Ocon moved across Hulkenberg found himself pincered between the two. He backed out as they approached the corner but could not avoid making contact with the Alpine, which fired it into Perez’s car.

“It happened all very quickly, very unfortunate,” Hulkenberg explained. “I was attacking Esteban into turn one and then on the outside line, very low grip here with the sand, but undercut him and then had a good exit out of turn one and kind of went side by side a little bit into turn two.

“I was obviously racing him and mainly seeing him and then I saw Checo appearing very late. I knew it was going to get very pointy and tight, I tried to bail out but it was too late. So, very unfortunate for all three of us.”

Hulkenberg said Ocon didn’t realise until it was too late that Perez had joined their fight for position. “I would like to give him the blame, but I think in this case we can’t because I don’t think he was able to see, and therefore he probably thought I have space to move more to the right.”

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Ocon said there was no way he could have known Perez was also trying to pass him. “I saw Nico, I knew he was there but it is impossible for me at that point to see Sergio on the right side,” he said. “So, three abreast is not a good idea in that corner unfortunately. So I think it’s a racing incident.”

Perez felt he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. “We were recovering, we were making good progress,” he said. “But unfortunately as I was making more progress, they had this contact and I paid the price. I had massive damage on my car.”

The stewards agreed the collision was a “racing incident” and chose not to penalise any of the drivers involved.

“Cars 27 [Hulkenberg] and 31 [Ocon] were fighting for position into turn one and therefore had a slower exit out of turn one,” they explained. “This led to car 11 [Perez] being able to pull alongside on the outside before turn two. The cars entered turn two three wide, collided and spun off-track.

“Whilst car 31 was moving from the left track edge to the middle of the track between turns one and two with car 27 on his right, the driver was not aware of car 11 pulling alongside on the right side as his visibility was blocked by car 27.

“The stewards determine that car 31 moved in a manner that would have allowed cars 31 and 27 to negotiate turn two side by side if car 11 had not been there. Taking all this into account, the stewards conclude that no driver was wholly or predominantly at fault for the collision.

“The incident is considered as a race incident and no further action is taken.”

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9 comments on “‘I’d like to blame him but I can’t’: Trio cleared over sprint race crash”

  1. I’m okay with racing incident verdict even if I still view Ocon as the one with most responsibility.

  2. That’s the correct assessment, I came to the same conclusion. Although I did wonder why Perez thought he could get through on that part of the track…

    1. “Cars 27 [Hulkenberg] and 31 [Ocon] were fighting for position into turn one and therefore had a slower exit out of turn one,”

      And Perez was actually mostly ahead before he got spun out by Ocon.

  3. Racing incident, but I’ll hand 51% of the blame to Perez – going into that situation there is just a bit daft. I know why he was trying to make progress – but a little patience and he’d have got past anyway.

  4. That’s a strange one. I get that Ocon had no idea Perez was there. But suppose Perez was not there. Suppose Hülkenberg still drives in a straight line as he thinks he is entitled to, and Ocon runs into him. How is that anyone but Ocon’s fault ?
    Somebody said in a another thread that it was a standard squeeze by Ocon, and indeed it happens often that the car on the inside attempt to reclaim some ground. But it doesn’t mean they are entitled to do that. It the car on the outside chickens out, fine, but if it doesn’t, then you have to take it on the chin.
    I find even stranger that one can think of apportioning any of the blame on Perez. There was more than enough room on the outside and he was not involved in the first collision at all. Ok, the guy is having a torrid end of season, but it doesn’t mean that everything he does is a blunder.
    By the way, the person who would probably agree that Ocon’s was a standard squeeze is Sebastian Vettel, if we go by his crash with Webber, Istanbul 2010, and his crash with Leclerc, Interlagos 2019, albeit in reverse positions, both of which he never owned as far as I know.

    1. well of the three of them, Checo was the one who knew both the others were there. So, could he have predicted Esteban would try to squeeze Hulk to the outside? I think there are drivers who’d have predicted it. So for me it was 50/50, two drivers who take chances and aren’t especially clever about it, together on track

      1. I have yet to see a third driver watching a battle between two others and not try to capitalize on it.

        That’s literally the issue with battling/ defending because you compromise your lines, entries and exits and a third driver capitalizes on it.

        Perez did what every other driver would do and tried to pass them both, which he almost did. He went to the line to leave space and almost got away. Ocon came across to Hulk and was going to run him wide but obviously couldn’t. I’d put at least 51% on Ocon, not Perez. And to be fair despite Perez’s current form it’s not like Ocon is an incident free driver. He’s incredibly aggressive and IMO unnecessarily and stupidly so because he’s caused many DNFs and not just for himself. Perez has had a run of clumsy weekends so I think it’s easy to just dump on him, but I didn’t find this move clumsy or opportunistic.

        Expecting Perez to be patient is like telling the drivers to avoid first lap incidents by being patient and letting all the other guys pass. I doubt many would take your advice.

  5. Checo could have stayed more to his right, and Hulk only needed a bit more room. So if he’d done what I said they’d all have been fine 😎

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