Sergio Perez didn’t realise Charles Leclerc was as close as he was as the Ferrari driver blitzed past on the final lap of the Las Vegas Grand Prix to beat him to second.
It was the Red Bull driver’s second last-lap-of-the-race defeat in as many races having lost out in Brazil to Fernando Alonso.
Perez has a mixed weekend as Formula 1 returned to Sin City for the first time in 40 years as Red Bull’s qualifying gamble imploded when the Mexican driver sat in the pits during Q2 and could only watch as he dropped down the timesheet.
Sergio Perez ‘wasn’t expecting’ Charles Leclerc in the braking zone
When all was said and done he was down in 12th place but lined up 11th due to Carlos Sainz’s grid penalty.
That put Perez in the thick of it at the start when Fernando Alonso spun and forced those behind him to check up. Perez’s front wing was broken in the melee.
That, though, was almost fortunate as he pitted for hard tyres, began to work his way through the pack, and then found himself up in P1 as the rest of the field’s pit stops cycled through.
A Safety Car soon after for debris meant even after stopping for a second time, Perez was in second place behind the Ferrari of Leclerc.
He challenged the Monégasque driver for the lead, making his move on lap 32 down the inside of Turn 14.
Alas, with his teammate Max Verstappen charging back through the field after his lap 1, it was the Dutchman who took the win with Perez running second as the race entered the final lap only for Leclerc to return the favour.
Shooting up the inside of Perez at Turn 14, the 33-year-old admitted he wasn’t expecting Leclerc to be there.
“I overtook Charles but I couldn’t pull away from him,” he explained to David Coulthard in the post-race interview. “I was just carrying a little bit too much wing on my car so my straight-line speed was a little bit down. I just couldn’t pull away from him.
“Then Max came, he passed us both, and it was very difficult out there with a gust of wind that we had a few times. I ended up locking a few times but luckily we kept it on track.
“And then there in the end with Charles, I wasn’t expecting him. he was 0.7s but then there in the braking zone he was there so well done to him.”
Perez reckons the Las Vegas’ circuits long straight and DRS zones meant it was a little bit like Baku where being in the lead isn’t always a good thing if you can’t shake the car behind.
“It was good for racing,” he added. “It was not easy to basically pull away from the people behind and it’s like a little bit like Baku where being the lead car makes life a little bit harder for you out there. So I think it did deliver.”
Perez’s 15 points under the lights in Sin City means he’s guaranteed P2 in the Drivers’ Championship, Red Bull’s first-ever 1-2.