As Sergio Perez spun off into the gravel in Austria, he knew his chances of beating Max Verstappen to the 2022 Drivers’ title were over.
Perez began his second season as a Red Bull driver more evenly matched to Verstappen, so much so team boss Christian Horner was asked after his Monaco Grand Prix win what Red Bull would do if they had an intra-team battle on their hands.
Horner replied that both drivers would be treated equally, each given a fair shot at fighting for the World title.
But it never materialised, Perez’s good start to the season fading away while Verstappen picked up pace as he raced to 14 wins – a new season record – and a second World title.
“I think I had a really good start, I was in the fight for the championship,” said Perez, quoted by the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.
“There were a couple of races where I struggled with the car and that cost me the most points and the chance to keep fighting for the championship.”
The one that sticks out for him is Austria.
That Sunday, he collided with George Russell as he attempted a pass around the outside at Turn 4 on the opening lap.
Russell hit Perez, the Mexican driver off into the gravel and out of the grand prix.
Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko had absolutely no sympathy for his driver’s “unnecessary” antics, revealing Red Bull had told him “before the start do not go around the outside in that corner”.
Perez had arrived at the Red Bull Ring 34 points down on Verstappen. He left trailing his team-mate by 57.
“I think Austria,” he said of the moment his title bid had ended. “That’s where I got hit by George.
“We were closest in the championship and that was a massive blow, and from there we had a couple of races that were difficult for us.”
It was one race after Austria, the French Grand Prix, that Verstappen has billed as the moment he realised he could win the championship.
At that stage of the season the RB18 was seemingly suiting Verstappen’s style better than Perez’s, the Mexican driver saying at the time Red Bull’s development was leaning more towards his team-mate.
Red Bull denied that, saying their only intention was to make the car faster, the team not looking to play to one driver’s strength over the other.
Perez, though, still feels the Red Bull development was more in Verstappen’s direction.
“I think probably so,” he said. “There are times when some upgrades are more or less beneficial and come with the handling.
“We’ve seen that with a lot of other drivers and I think the way we developed the car was more in Max’s direction.
“But as a team, we managed to understand that well and I really hope together we can avoid these things in the future.”