Formula 1 Racing

Penalty drops Perez to sixth on grid · RaceFans

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Sergio Perez has lost third place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after receiving a three-place grid drop for impeding Nico Hulkenberg.

The Red Bull driver was deemed to have held his rival up at the penultimate corner, turn 13, in Q1.

The incident occured three minutes into the session, Perez was preparing to start his first push lap of qualifying in the final sector behind Esteban Ocon Alpine. As he rounded turn 11, his race engineer, Hugh Bird, gave him feedback on the status of his car.

“B-bal three. B-bal three. And brakes are looking good,” Perez was told. “Handbrake to open the lap. Recharge off when you’re ready.”

But as Perez prepared to round the tight left hander at turn 13, Hulkenberg suddenly approached from behind on his flying lap. Despite Bird issuing a late warning that Hulkenberg was “at one [second]” behind him, it was too late for Perez to move out of the way of the Haas.

Hulkenberg rounded turn 13 with the Red Bull directly ahead of him. “That was impeding by Perez, turn 13,” Hulkenberg said. “We’ve reported,” race engineer Gary Gannon replied.

The stewards noted the incident soon after and confirmed they would investigate after the session. Hulkenberg was eliminated at the end of Q1, while Perez went on to qualify third on the grid.

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After speaking with both drivers, the stewards determined that the Red Bull had been guilty of impeding the Haas driver, demoting Perez three places on the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“Perez, who was on an out-lap, was at the apex of the turn and Hulkenberg had to leave the racing line to drive around him,” the stewards observed. “Hulkenberg was forced to lift the throttle early and brake early for that corner.

“In reviewing the audio from Perez’s car, the stewards observed that the team was focused on the car in front of Perez that had just slowed, and did not give Perez a warning that Hulkenberg was behind him until one second before Hulkenberg arrived, and significantly too late to avoid impeding Hulkenberg.

“While the stewards appreciate the dynamic situation facing the team and driver during the Q1 session, which was described in the hearing, the stewards find that Perez ‘unnecessarily impeded’ Hulkenberg and issue a three grid place drop, consistent with previous cases.”

Perez will therefore start sixth on the grid on Sunday. The penalty moves Lando Norris up to third, Charles Leclerc to fourth…

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