Perez regrets pitting once more: “We had a podium in our pocket” 

Sergio Perez believes he lost out on a podium in Qatar because he was caught between two strategies.

Sergio Perez was left to ponder what may have been following the Qatar Grand Prix, as a podium result slipped him.

Perez spent the early stages of the race recovering from 11th position to run inside the top three, behind leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, after being knocked out in the second round of qualifying.

Red Bull was debating whether to commit to an one-stop or two-stop strategy throughout the race, according to Perez, before eventually choosing to pit for a second time due to competitor drivers’ punctures.

Perez had to overtake several of his rivals again, and despite his best efforts, he had to settle for fourth at the finish line.

“We were actually changing throughout the race,” Perez said.

“At some point we were going for one-stop, then two, then one. I think it wasn’t very clear either for us. [But] I think it was understandable from a pit wall point of view that we had to play it safe there.”

“We had a podium in our pocket”

After his second stop, Perez rejoined in seventh place and was overheard on the team radio criticising the team’s strategy.

Simultaneously, Fernando Alonso sent a message to the Alpine pit wall, instructing teammate Esteban Ocon to “defend like a lion” when Perez arrived, in order to keep his podium spot.

Perez quickly closed on Alonso in the closing few circuits, but a late Virtual Safety Car hampered his recovery and relegated him to fourth.

“I think we had the podium pretty much in the pocket,” said Perez.

“I think the Virtual Safety Car… I don’t know if that would have been enough to prevent us from getting Fernando at the end, but it’s a bit of a shame.

“We managed to minimise a bit the damage, but I think we should have been on the podium.”

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