Sergio Perez support in F1 French GP eventually did not help Mercedes in making direct strategy calls, with Red Bull taking charge of the scene.
The mistake from Max Verstappen caused some worry for Red Bull at the start of the F1 French GP, but the powerful undercut brought them back in the game. Even though Perez was a bit far off from the group ahead, but he was always in the reckoning.
The Mexican did not have a great first stint as he struggled to keep the tyres going. Despite that, he did not fall behind drastically and had fourth in check from others nicely. Once Verstappen was back ahead, the Mexican came alive on the second stint.
Red Bull decided to extend the first stint of Perez, which helped him in his second stint, when Mercedes became vulnerable. In fact, Wolff admitted that the Mexican’s pace was one big reason that they did not opt for a second stop for either of the cars.
If Perez was far behind, they would have thought of pitting at least one car, likely Valtteri Bottas. “The fight between the three cars was intense at the front, and I think you then basically had to opt to continue with the one-stop or for the two,” said Wolff to media. “The two-stop was a danger for us, because Perez was in the way. We got it wrong today.
“If Perez wouldn’t have been in the window, we would at least with one car have opted for a second stop, and early, then basically put the other Red Bull car in a difficult situation. He wasn’t far off. He was obviously not in contention for the podium in the beginning.
“But they were able to go long, and that proved to be the right strategy to make it back to the podium,” summed up Wolff. While the Austrian didn’t say much if he was a threat for even Hamilton towards the end, his counterpart Christian Horner definitely thought so.
Horner explained how Perez got his act together after rough laps in the beginning and undercut allowing them to extend the Mexican’s first stint and bring him in contention for a podium in the second stint. Regarding the undercut, he agreed they replayed Barcelona in their minds and this time wanted to be the first to blink.
“It took a few laps for that to calm down for him, and I think once he did that, he was able to run at the leaders pace and actually start to close in on Bottas,” said Horner. So he just played out to being a better strategy for him. Another couple of laps, or if he had managed to clear Valtteri a lap or two earlier, I think he would have been right on Lewis on the last lap.”
“As for the situation with Verstappen, it was great to get Lewis and it was a little bit of payback for Barcelona earlier in the year with a lap and a half to go. After the first stop Max was being pushed really hard, and he wasn’t able to be managing the tyres. Mercedes were telling their drivers to keep the pressure on us, and we thought they were very much gearing up for a two-stop themselves.
“The feedback from the car was that he didn’t think you’d get to the end. So, the strategist presented the options in front of me and said we have got nothing to lose. So, we pulled the trigger and, by putting Sergio Perez on the alternative strategy we got both scenarios covered. At that point in the race, we weren’t sure which one would work out.
“It would have almost been easier if Mercedes had maintained track position, because then we would have pulled the trigger anyway. It would have made our decision easier. But to make that call when you’re in the lead and all the tyres are looking okay, it was quite a ballsy call. But it was the fastest way we felt at the end of the race,” summed up Horner.
For Perez, it was not until the second stint that he started thinking of the podium. The first stint, he reckoned the start and the end was not great but the middle pack was fine, as he could keep a check on the Top 3. In the second stint, he had enough to push on.
“I think we had a good race,” said Perez. “We found the track conditions very different today to what we expected – especially at the start of the race, we had very little grip. Obviously running less downforce on the car compared to the Mercedes made our first stint pretty tricky. I think my first five laps and the last five laps of my first stint, if you take them away then the race could have looked a lot better.
“We did a good strategy. We went long – very long – on that first stint which really paid out. And I think, yeah, we lacked a couple of laps to get Lewis as well. But I think overall it’s a good result for the team and yeah, it’s showing that it’s some good progress and I just have to keep working on it to get this consistency and take another step very soon,” summed up Perez.
Here’s Sergio Perez clearing Valtteri Bottas: https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/video.2021-french-grand-prix-perez-snatches-podium-place-from-bottas.1703100183167749687.html
Here’s Max Verstappen on post second stop and Lewis Hamilton on no fight
Here’s Mercedes gamble on Valtteri Bottas, Toto Wolff on his radio