Sergio Perez says he was caught by surprise by Charles Leclerc on the final lap of the Las Vegas Grand Prix as he lost second place to the Ferrari driver.
Despite losing out, a podium was a welcome result after Perez pitted on the opening lap with front wing damaged sustained from contact with Valtteri Bottas in the turn one melee.
“It started really difficult with a lot of damage,” Perez said.
“Initially we broke the front wing, so we basically went all the way to the back of the grid. And then progressively we were [passing] one-by-one and things were going well, we had really strong pace on that first stint, so we put back ourselves in contention. Then with the Safety Car, that brought us into the race.”
Perez pitted from the lead under the second Safety Car, allowing him to rejoin in second place behind leader Leclerc. The pair battled throughout the rest of the race but were both passed by Perez’s Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen.
“I overtook Charles, but I couldn’t pull away from him,” Perez explained. “I was just carrying a little bit too much wing in my car, so my straight line speed was a little bit down and I just couldn’t pull away from him. Then Max came, he passed us both.”
Perez gained second place when Leclerc locked up and ran wide into turn 12 with eight laps remaining, however, Leclerc dived by on the final lap to deny him second place.
“With Charles, he went straight,” Perez said. “It was quite difficult out there with the gusts of wind that we had a few times. I ended up locking up a few times, but luckily we kept it on track.
“At the end with with Charles, I wasn’t expecting him – he was 0.7 [seconds behind], but then in the braking zone, he was there. So well done to him and to Max.”
Asked if he felt the Las Vegas Grand Prix had delivered on racing action during its inaugural event, Perez said “I think it did.
“Because it was good for racing, it was not easy to basically pull away from the people behind. And it’s a little bit like Baku, being the lead car makes life a little bit harder for you out there. So I think it did deliver.”
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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix
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