Sergio Perez said the appearance of the Safety Car while he was leading the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix reminded him of how he lost a potential victory in last year’s race.
The Red Bull driver took pole position for the race a year ago but made his first pit stop before the Safety Car was deployed. That allowed his rivals to pit and rejoin ahead of him, and Perez finished the race off the podium.
He took pole position again this weekend but lost the lead at the start to Fernando Alonso. Perez soon regained the lead, however, and was ahead of the field when the Safety Car was deployed in response to Lance Stroll’s retirement.
“Once I got past Fernando, I could do my own race,” Perez recalled. “But once again, when that Safety Car came out, it reminded me all over Jeddah last year again and I was like ‘not again’.
“But luckily, we hadn’t pitted at the time. So it was a new race after the Safety Car.”
Once the race resumed Perez was chased by Max Verstappen, who rose to second place from 15th on the grid, but kept his team mate behind to the flag.
“Very early on Max came back and we were basically towards the end just making sure we kept the gap between between myself and Max,” he said. “But that meant we were pushing quite hard and trying to maintain the gap.”
The race “turned out to be tougher than expected,” Perez admitted. “We really did a job in the first stint but that Safety Car again tried to take the victory out of us again in Jeddah but not this time.
“I was on [for] the victory last year, finally I got it and the team did a fantastic job. The job they’ve done, they’ve worked so hard during the weekend. We had a lot of mechanical issues and these guys have been on top of that. So I’m really happy for them and it’s time to celebrate.”
However Perez said he has “some work to do” with the team to improve his starts after being beaten off the line by Alonso. “We’ve changed a bit the procedure from our side. So I think we need to do some work to get better starts in the future.”
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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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