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Losing the start against Leclerc determined my race

Losing the start against Leclerc determined my race

( – Sergio Perez was possibly the only driver in the field who could have prevented Max Verstappen’s victory at the 2023 Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix. However, the Mexican made a poor start from second on the grid and had to settle In third place behind Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc after the first corner.

Charles Leclerc ahead of Sergio Perez during the opening stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix

This had a lasting effect on his racing, as Pérez could not find a way past Monaco during the entire first stint and was only able to overtake the Ferrari on lap 25 with an overtaking strategy with better tires on the track.

When asked if the first stint ruined his race, he said: “Yeah, it really was. I got behind Charles and it was really hard to overtake him. He had the new tyres. You can see the difference in that first stint work.”

Perez: After overtaking at the same speed as Max

“And as soon as I got a little closer to him and tried to attack him earlier, I smashed my tyres. So I really had to be patient and push. My tires were in better shape than he was in the second stint and then I got through.”

Leclerc switched from soft to hard on lap 13, while Perez only headed to the pits on lap 17 and put on the soft again. A smart move by Red Bull, because overtaking would have been much more difficult for the Mexican on the same tires as Leclerc.

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“But yeah, it’s too late,” Perez said. “It was a few laps too many, in hindsight, and that put us very far behind Max. When that happened, we kept the gap the whole race. So we didn’t have a chance to fight for the win. But today it was all about minimizing a bad start.” .

Marco on Perez: “Maybe he can challenge Max”

By the time Verstappen made his first pit stop on lap 14, Perez’s gap to the leaders had increased to 11 seconds as he could not find a way to overtake the slower Leclerc. When crossing the finish line on lap 57, it was 12 seconds, which proves Perez’s assessment. However, it is questionable whether Verstappen at the top is still driving at the limit.

Bahrain Impact: Perez loses in the first stint because he can’t overtake Leclerc, but then he can reverse Verstappen’s lead.

So Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, is satisfied with his student’s performance: “He started the weekend very well,” he says of Perez. “Unfortunately he got a little nudge from Leclerc at the start straight up, took the dirty route and then it took him a while to come to terms.”

“But then he set the pace and he’s definitely in very, very good shape, physically as well. He wasn’t sweating, which means he takes it very seriously and can be a challenge for Max.”

Perez: Now you know Ferrari’s weaknesses

Although he “defined his race”, Perez could still gain something from his first stint behind Leclerc, as he confirms after the race: “I learned a lot about their car: where they are weak, where they are strong, or stronger than us. It has to I make sure that the knowledge will be kept fresh for the engineers later in the briefing.”

“But yeah, I’m comfortable. I’m comfortable with the car and I’m happy,” he adds. “I think we still have some work to do. We’re both driving in the same direction, which is good. It was a great start to the season, our best start ever, very different from last year.”