Sergio Perez has acknowledged that both he and Max Verstappen “went over the limit” while fighting for the lead on the opening lap of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race.
Red Bull secured a front-row lockout at the team’s circuit in Saturday morning’s sprint shootout, with Perez taking the lead from team-mate polesitter Verstappen at the start of the rain-affected race.
An extraordinary battle then unfolded as Perez appeared to put Verstappen on the grass on the following straight, with the pair fighting hard into Turn 3 before the Dutchman reclaimed the advantage by hanging Perez out to dry at Turn 4.
Sergio Perez admits he and Max Verstappen went over the edge
Verstappen went on to win the race by 21 seconds, extending his lead over Perez in the Drivers’ standings to 70 points in the process.
Both drivers expressed their dismay over each other’s conduct over team radio, yet played down the significance of the first-lap clash after an amicable conversation in parc ferme.
Perez claimed he could not see Verstappen in the dreary conditions prior to the near-miss on the straight and has admitted that both men took things too far as they duelled for the lead on the first lap.
He told Formula 1: “I think the conditions didn’t help, visibility was very poor out there and we went over the limit – both of us.
“We’ve spoken about it, it’s all fine between us and in the end I’m happy that the team didn’t pay the price for that. We’ve spoken about it and it’s all good now.”
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 at the end of the race, team principal Christian Horner admitted “it got a bit tasty” as Verstappen took to the grass, with the remainder of the fight adhering to Red Bull’s so-called rules of engagement.
“I think Checo had Max maybe unsighted there on the right-hand side, so thankfully they didn’t collect each other and a one-two finish is a great result for the team,” he added.
Perez came in for severe criticism after a disastrous qualifying session on Friday, when multiple track limits breaches saw him fail to reach Q3 for the fourth race in succession. He is set to start Sunday’s grand prix from 15th.
Despite making the final stage of qualifying at less than half of the nine rounds so far in 2023, Perez has been encouraged by his pace compared to Verstappen in Austria.
“I’ve been confident already, I think it’s been a good weekend,” he said.
“Unfortunately, yesterday I got caught out with track limits. This track is a bit special in that regard but I think the pace has been there since FP1 so that’s positive and hopefully tomorrow I’m able to show it again.”