‘Don’t fans want hard defending, good racing?’

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez (

Otmar Szafnauer believes the stewards’ decision to reprimand Sergio Perez for his defending in Portugal will ruin drivers “racing hard but safely”.

Perez was involved in a tense battle with Pierre Gasly for fifth place in Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

The rivals engaged in a thrilling battle late in the race with the AlphaTauri driver closing fast with the aid of DRS.

He made his move, Perez defended. Shortly after the Frenchman was through and up into fifth.

The stewards announced an investigation with Perez reprimanded as they felt it was “too close to that limit and that Perez had not sufficiently accounted for the speed differential.

“In selecting a penalty, the Stewards have taken into account the views of the drivers involved and ordered a Reprimand (Driving).”

Szafnauer feels that sort of decision will only ruin racing.

“They didn’t touch,” he told RaceFans.net. “Sergio moved first before Gasly did. Sergio is allowed to make that move in defence.

“You can’t move twice, but you’re allowed to move once. Gasly got out of the throttle and there was no contact. So why the reprimand?

“On lap one Sergio is hit by Verstappen, who comes back onto the track after being off-track, comes back on acutely in order to get his car in a position so he can have grip again and runs into Sergio, and they do nothing.

“Sergio and Gasly didn’t touch. Isn’t that what the fans want? Hard defending, good racing?

“If we start reprimanding drivers and punishing them for racing hard but safely, where is that going to take our sport?”

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Szafnauer intends speaking with the stewards about the incident.

“I am bringing this up tomorrow because it’s a big issue,” he said. “To me, when I saw that, I thought, that’s good, hard racing.”

He added: “You’ve got to look at a collision. The Gasly-Sergio thing was not a collision, it was a good, hard defending.

“And you punish that but then when somebody does collide, you don’t do anything?

“That’s two times in a row – I don’t know if you saw Leclerc and Lance [in Russia], it was a very similar thing. You cause a collision and then nothing.”

Perez is up to two reprimands for the season, having also received one earlier in the weekend for another incident with Gasly.

A third means a 10-place grid penalty.

“He’s got two this weekend,” said Szafnauer.

“One of which was in qualifying where he made a mistake in one of the sectors, didn’t realise Gasly was on a fast lap behind him, got out of the way but not quickly enough: Reprimand.

“Well, Gasly got through Q2 into Q3, it didn’t cause him any harm: Reprimand. You saw the other incident: Reprimand.

“Now for the rest of the season, he’s got to drive like a saint. He’s not going to be able to fight hard because there is a risk of a reprimand and then you get a 10 grid place penalty.

“So I think that’s quite harsh. You may not think that reprimand was harsh, but it is.”

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