26 March 2012
Call didn't distract me, insists Perez
The call from Sauber to Sergio Perez urging caution in his pursuit may have excited conspiracy theorists, but had no effect on the driver himself.
Sergio Perez insists that there was nothing about the call he received from Sauber's pit wall that caused or persuaded him to give up on his pursuit of Fernando Alonso and a maiden F1 victory.
The Mexican proved to be the star of the race at Sepang, benefiting from an early switch to full wet tyres to emerge in the top three when the race was suspended, and then continue to run at the front, leading twice during rounds of pit-stops before harrying Fernando Alonso's Ferrari to the chequered flag. A slow pit-stop, caused according to Perez by a tricky clutch, proved to be a mere delay, with the gap again scythed away, but a warning from the pit-lane not to throw away the 18 points for second place was followed by an uncharacteristic slip by Perez which ultimately gave Alonso an easier passage to victory.
The timing of call and slip have led to a raft of conspiracy theories centring around Sauber's use of Ferrari engines and the possible transfer of Perez to Maranello to replace the lacklustre Felipe Massa as Alonso's team-mate, but the Mexican insists that the error was all of his own making.
"No, not at all," he replied when asked whether he was distracted by the message, "Obviously, for us, second place means a lot, so the team were quite worried - I was going quite fast in difficult conditions. To keep the car on the track during the early stages of the race was quite a challenge, so we did quite well, but it was a long race for the team, and I fully understand them.
"But, no, it was not a distraction at all. I think they wanted the points as much as I did. I wanted the win because I saw it was possible. Unfortunately it didn't happen. I was keeping my head down, and had to save some tyres, try not to degrade them a lot, because it was so easy in those conditions, especially towards the end of the stint on inters. I knew it was crucial to have good tyres towards the end of the stint, so I was catching Alonso with quite good tyres - but then he pitted and he pitted on the right lap. Again, I had to catch him and I was doing it big time, but then I just ran a little bit wide. I was obviously on the limit, trying to catch him. I just touched the wet side of the kerb and went straight on...."
Conspiracy theories will always abound in F1 but, as SpeedTV's Will Buxton succinctly points out in his latest blog, Perez's renewed pursuit of his quarry after the error should be enough to dispel any notions that he had just thrown the chance of winning. Sauber, too, is unlikely to have passed up on the chance of a first win as a privateer - Canada 2008 came during the short-lived relationship with BMW - just because the car in front shared a common powerplant, particularly knowing that a win against the odds could provide valuable support for 2013 and beyond.
"All we meant was 'get the car home'," team CEO Monisha Kaltenborn insisted, "It was important to us to get the result, but there was nothing else to it. There was no instruction."
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