Why Sergio Perez rejoined the Japanese GP after retiring 20 laps earlier

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Sergio Perez during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.

Retiring from the Japanese Grand Prix a third of the way through, Sergio Perez was back on track for Red Bull in an unusual decision from the team…

Perez had a chaotic race at Suzuka, with the Mexican driver getting caught up in a first-lap incident that resulted in damage to his RB19. Attempting to thread the needle between the two Ferraris and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Perez picked up front wing damage that necessitated a front wing change as the Safety Car was deployed due to debris on the track.

He picked up a time penalty for a Safety Car infringement during this phase, having overtaken cars both coming into the pits and exiting while the field were slowed for the hazard on track.

Upon the race resuming, Perez was attempting a fightback when he collided with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in what was an ill-judged overtaking attempt at the hairpin – Perez being given a second five-second time penalty for the incident.

Sergio Perez retires from the Japanese Grand Prix

Perez needed another front wing due to the Magnussen incident, but had not served his second penalty by the time Red Bull opted to bring in his car and retire him from the race on Lap 15.

However, 20 laps later, Red Bull could be seen preparing the Mexican in the car to send him back out onto the circuit. Astonishingly, on Lap 41, Perez resumed the race and, seconds later, dived into the pits again to serve the five-second time penalty he hadn’t served before being withdrawn on Lap 15.

Having stopped in the pitlane for the appropriate time, Red Bull then pulled Perez back into the pitlane to retire for a second time, and a flip through the rulebook has revealed why the bizarre chain of events occurred.

With a time penalty still hanging over him, the Sporting Regulations state that Perez would have picked up a grid penalty for the next Grand Prix had he failed to serve his penalty.

According to Article 54.3 (d), “If a penalty is imposed upon a driver, and that driver is unable to serve the penalty due to retirement from the sprint session or the race, the stewards may impose a grid place penalty on the driver at his next race.”

In other words, clever thinking from Red Bull to ensure Perez wouldn’t be compromised for the next Grand Prix!

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Despite reports elsewhere that the FIA would move to close this loophole in the rules in light of Red Bull’s antics, the governing body has confirmed to PlanetF1.com that these reports are inaccurate.

With Christian Horner labeling Perez’s weekend a ‘shocker’, particularly as Perez picked up four penalty points on his superlicence – two two-point punishments for the two transgressions – the Mexican driver summed it up succinctly as he spoke to the media after retiring.

“Yeah, it was just a disastrous weekend,” he said.

“It all started into Turn 1 with a really bad start, and I was squeezed down. I was just a passenger there in a sandwich, and we carried a lot of damage in the car as well. That just made it a little harder for us.”

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