Sergio Perez was bemused when informed about Carlos Sainz’s “he’s intimidating me” team radio message during their tense fight in the Austrian Grand Prix.
After a horror show in Friday qualifying at the Red Bull Ring left him 15th on the grid, the Mexican embarked upon a solid recovery on to finish third – his first podium finish in almost two months.
Perez raced hard with Sainz as they battled over the final podium spot, with the Ferrari driver – later demoted to sixth after a deep post-race stewards’ investigation into track limits breaches – heard complaining over team radio that Perez had been “pushing me off the track” and “intimidating me.”
Sergio Perez denies he was too aggressive with Carlos Sainz
Speaking in the post-race FIA press conference, Perez described the fight as “enjoyable” and was amused when told of Sainz’s complaints over the airwaves.
“I heard that!” he said. “I haven’t spoken to Carlos, I don’t know what he means with it. We don’t see the face of the other driver. I don’t know. I don’t know what he really means when it!
Asked if he had set out to be extra aggressive with Sainz, Perez replied: “Not really, I think we just had a proper fight.
“[The Ferraris] particularly strong in the exit of [Turn] 3. It took me a bit longer on one occasion, I was down the inside into Turn 4 and all of a sudden I find the [lapped] Haas stopped in the inside, so I had to back off and it took me probably a bit longer than I wanted but in the end, we got it done.”
After failing to finish in the top three since the Miami GP in early May, Perez, who battled through illness all weekend, was pleased to return to the podium at Red Bull’s home race – but admitted to still being frustrated by his qualifying result after seeing multiple laps deleted for track limits in Q2.
He said: “It’s really nice to get back to the podium, especially at home, such a special weekend for the team and on our weekend that started overall really bad with – I don’t know how to say it, I don’t want to use a bad word – but for the track limits.
“I think everyone got hit by it at some point. Hopefully next year when we come back, it’s something that can be fixed.
“But anyway, that meant that we started P15 for the race today and we just had to fight our way through it. We had some great pace, some great battles out there but in the end, it’s a good one, especially not been close to 100 per cent physically. But with all the adrenaline going on, you forget about everything.”
Perez declared himself satisfied with Red Bull’s strategy after climbing 12 places from his grid position, but identified the team’s decision to keep him out during the early Virtual Safety Car as one moment they need to examine in the debrief.
He explained: “I think with the VSC, something that we’ve got to review from the position I was, something we need to see. Also, the way we did the strategy, when we use the hard at the end, few things to tickle around but, I mean, I got to back to the podium so it was a good strategy.”
When asked if he is now back to his best after failing to reach Q3 for four races running, Perez replied: “Yeah, certainly.
I mean, without the issues we had on Friday, we had good pace since Lap 1, we managed to understand our issues we had in the previous races, so I believe that we are back.”