Perez continues to acclimate to new car, fights at the top in Portugal campaign
Driver of the Day Analysis following the Portuguese Grand Prix
Sergio Perez had a notably consistent weekend in Portugal, achieving his best finish since joining Red Bull. Taking a unique strategy, Perez proved himself to be useful in Red Bull’s fight against Mercedes.
Perez was not entirely happy with the car’s balance during qualifying, and ended up P4-- under two tenths away from teammate Max Verstappen. With both Mercedes qualifying front row, it was not a perfect qualifying for the Red Bulls-- but it was enough to keep themselves in contention for podium finishes and potentially cause Mercedes some headaches.
“Tomorrow I think we are in a good position for the race, it’s going to be a tight battle,” Perez said in a post-qualifying interview posted to F1.com.
Perez’s prediction came true, as the focal point of the race would be the fight at the front between Mercedes and Red Bull.
After the lights went out, Perez was passed soon after the start by Carlos Sainz, thereby losing a position before the safety car was brought out on lap two due to Kimi Raikkonen’s small collision with Antonio Giovinazzi.
Perez would take P4 back from Sainz around turn one after the restart. He didn’t hold onto that position for long, however, as Lando Norris would overtake him a few turns later. Perez didn’t defend the move as he thought Norris was “completely off the track”, and expected the stewards to rule that the position be given back. This didn’t come to fruition though, and it cost him.
“I spent many laps behind Lando, it took me a couple of laps to get through him,” Perez said in a post-race interview posted to F1.com.
After passing Norris, Perez remained in P4 for many laps. Once the frontrunners went to pit about halfway through the race, he found himself leading the race due to the aggressive tyre strategy he was on.
On lap 46, Nikita Mazepin failed to allow Perez to pass under a blue flag, costing him a few seconds.
He would extend his stint on his starting set of medium tyres until lap 52, when he finally switched to soft tyres just after Hamilton passed him for the lead. He had done a great deal to keep those tyres in check, and provide Red Bull an alternate strategy option-- even if it didn’t make a substantial impact on the race’s results.
After he finally made his pit stop, he returned to P4-- the position in which he would finish the race.
“I think I was happier today with the car, but there is a good amount of work to be done for Barcelona,” Perez said in the post-race interview. “But from my side I am just getting a bit more comfortable with the car.”
Driver of the Day Analysis
-- Vote Breakdown --
- Sergio Perez
- Max Verstappen
- Lewis Hamilton
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Fernando Alonso
This week’s Driver of the Day results involve an odd factor that should be considered. Over the race weekend, many social media users decided to band together and vote Nikita Mazepin best driver, regardless of race results. The impact of this trend on the final poll results is not confirmed, but the whole situation caused quite the stir online. I will be evaluating Driver of the Day based on the results published by F1, which omitted a percentage breakdown this week, nonetheless.
Unlike last week, I feel as though who deserved Driver of the Day is not cut and dry. While there was no driver that stood out immensely, there were many who performed incredibly well. Perez had by no means a perfect race, but his ability to hold onto those tyres in a high-pressure scenario clearly impressed voters, as he took the title this week. Ultimately, I feel as though there were some drivers that deserved a touch more praise for their performance and may have been more worthy of the title.
Verstappen and Hamilton both made the short-list, putting in solid performances and fighting at the top. Their races were, however, quite ordinary for the both of them. Daniel Ricciardo had made a great comeback from a disappointing qualifying where he placed P16, working his way up to P9 to secure some points-- he was certainly a contender for Driver of the Day in my book.
The last to make the top five selection was Fernando Alonso, who showed great pace in his Alpine, rising from P13 to P8. It was a great weekend for both Alpine drivers, as Esteban Ocon qualified an impressive P6 and finished P7. For the first time this season, you could really see the potential Alpine had as a midfield competitor.
Some honorable mentions that didn't make the top five this week: Lando Norris had yet another great result at P5, continuing to score big points and proving his initial performances were far from flukes. Mick Schumacher had a good weekend as well-- he outperformed teammate Mazepin by a long shot, beating him by over a minute.
So who got my vote? It's a close call this weekend, and there were plenty of drivers to choose from. I would have given the nod to Fernando Alonso though, as he made some fantastic overtakes and simply made that Alpine shine out on track.
This is the second installment of my “Driver of the Day Analysis” series! If you enjoyed this one and are interested in reading about each race weekend’s Driver of the Day winner, be sure to follow to make sure you don’t miss out!