Never mind Carlos Sainz or Oscar Piastri, Sergio Perez’s lunges across the track at Spa to cover off Lewis Hamilton have been blamed for Sunday’s lap 1 collision.
Starting Sunday’s 44-lap race from fourth and fifth on the grid with Sainz ahead of Piastri, the two made contact into Turn 1 when Sainz, trying to overtake Hamilton, took the inside line only to find Piastri was already there.
The two collided with Piastri pushed into the wall, Saturday’s breakthrough podium finisher’s race over before it had even begun.
‘Sergio Perez ignited all of that’
Sainz continued through to lap 23 but, nursing a damaged Ferrari with a hole in the right-side sidepod and falling well outside of the points, the Scuderia eventually told him to retire the car.
Sainz blamed Piastri, Piastri blamed Sainz, and the more neutrals – and the stewards – saw it as a racing incident.
However, according to Williams academy driver Jamie Chadwick, the blame belongs to Perez who was “super aggressive” off the line as he crossed the track to the right and then back to the left to block Hamilton.
“What I thought was interesting was that what actually ignited all of that was Serio Perez’s super aggressive move off the start,” Chadwick told Channel 4.
She put that down to the under-fire Mexican driver’s desperation to build a gap to his team-mate, one that proved ineffective given that Max Verstappen was leading by lap 17 and went on to win the race.
“I think that was intent from him to say, ‘I need to get in the lead of this race, I need to stand my ground and try and get away from Max for as long as I can’, which lasted I think 17 laps,” she added.
‘Painful how small the damage to Oscar Piastri’s car was’
Although Piastri tried to continue, he didn’t make it much further after Turn 1 as he retired his McLaren on the side of the track.
His manager Mark Webber says the worst part of that was how small the damage was to the car.
“The damage to his car, you should see just how small it is,” said the former Red Bull driver. “It’s just painful how small the damage to his car is but that’s what can happen. And he’s got the summer break now to chew on that.”
As for his assessment of the collision, he said: “Spa has always caused a bit of tension on the apex here. Lewis when he was looking for the ideal line, Carlos went for a move on Lewis, and then Oscar was down the inside of Carlos so you know three to one certainly didn’t go.
“You’ve got Lewis in front of us, he went to the left because actually he was looking for options on Perez there and then it sort of concertinaed.
“And Oscar is going, ‘Where would you like me to go, I want a little bit more room!’
“It was tight. It can happen.”
Mark Webber ‘envies’ Oscar Piastri’s talent and composure
Although the grand prix didn’t end as Piastri had hoped, the McLaren rookie walked away from Spa with a first-ever F1 podium having finished P2 in the Sprint race.
Grabbing the lead through an early pit stop to swap his full wets for inters at the sodden circuit, he was two seconds ahead of Verstappen after the Dutchman’s pit stop and kept him behind for several.
Verstappen eventually pounced after a Safety Car restart with Piastri finishing runner-up.
“I think always in the junior categories, Oscar has been strong in those mixed conditions,” Webber said.
“It’s challenging to get them right, it’s easy to bomb the whole shooting match when you get to the Bus Stop and go straight but ultimately he kept a cool head team.
“The team did a great job, they delivered, execution, tyres, strategy. Did the business.”
Asked about his driver’s ‘old head on young shoulders’, Webber replied: “Yeah, wish I’d had some of that when I was racing. Oh to be that relaxed and gifted. I just look on with envy.”