Sergio Perez has admitted he “got lucky” with the Safety Car that propelled him back into podium contention at the British Grand Prix.
The Mexican’s top-three chances looked all but over when he was forced into the pits on lap six for a new front wing, having suffered damage during contact with Charles Leclerc as the Ferrari squeezed through on the inside.
Largely unnoticed amid a three-way tussle at the front, the Red Bull driver crept back up to fourth but was still well adrift until a Safety Car period, triggered by Esteban Ocon’s Alpine stopping on track with a fuel pump failure.
With his team-mate Max Verstappen nursing a damaged car in P7, Perez was right back in the mix and, stopping for soft tyres like most of the other front-runners, he suddenly found himself potentially even a victory candidate given his car’s pace if he could pull off some moves.
Perez did get past Lewis Hamilton when racing resumed, then added the scalp of Leclerc – who was left out on hard tyres – and although he could not challenge eventual winner Carlos Sainz, a runner-up finish must have been more than he had dared to envisage after that early pit-stop.
“I was unfortunate with Charles on the first lap,” said Perez at the post-race press conference.
“There was not much room for three cars and unfortunately I took the worst part of it. I got front wing damage, which on these cars they said it didn’t affect that much, but for me I had no front end.
“I was forced to pit and basically I went all the way to last and just recovered from there, lap after lap.
“The medium tyres were holding on pretty nicely and we got lucky with the Safety Car at the end, which gave us a good opportunity to fight for the podium.
“When the Safety Car came out, it meant we were in P4. So then it was a good chance. And then it was epic final laps.”
🗣 "It was great fighting with Charles and Lewis. I was unfortunate on lap one to ruin my front wing, so to come back was good."
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) July 4, 2022
Although he eventually built a 2.5-second gap to Hamilton, Perez had been involved in some breathtaking action with the Mercedes driver and Leclerc, while Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris in behind were also getting themselves involved.
It was reminiscent of battles Perez had waged against Hamilton in Turkey and Abu Dhabi towards the end of last year.
“Those final laps were a great fight with Lewis,” added the 32-year-old, who achieved his 21st F1 podium.
“It’s been so long since we had a good fight so I was ready to have him back.
“And also with Charles. He was very aggressive but fair and I’m sure the fans enjoyed it.
“Those laps really reminded me of the junior series when we were all racing and having a lot of fun.”
Highlights from the British Grand Prix
Put simply, it was a quite remarkable British Grand Prix on Sunday.