Perez was running fourth in the opening stages of the Portimao race but didn’t follow the same strategy as the three cars ahead of him regarding the timing of his stop.
As teammate Max Verstappen was opposed on lap 35 in an attempt to jump the Mercedes duo he was fighting, Perez was sidelined at the front of the race for much longer.
Although he was much slower than cars on fresh rubber, he stayed on the sidelines until lap 51 – just after Hamilton passed him.
But while it turned out that one of the main motivations for preventing Perez would have been to potentially hamper Hamilton in his battle against Verstappen, Red Bull claims his main goal was actually to free Perez to try and get the fastest lap. .
Team boss Christian Horner explained: “He was more focused on getting to the soft tire to have a crack at that point for the fastest lap.
“That’s why we went so long. The soft tire didn’t have a lot of range, and of course, if you overdo it on just one lap, that makes it a bit more marginal.
“Sergio was in sort of a solid fourth, with no ability to catch up with the cars in front and clear the cars behind. So we were like, ‘Okay, let’s cut down on the fuel, let’s get to a point where it’s reasonable to finish and have a crack on the fastest lap. ‘”
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo By: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Perez briefly managed to grab the fastest lap, but the subsequent drop in pace caused him to move away from third-placed Valtteri Bottas, who was then able to make a pit in the later stages for perform the fastest lap himself.
The timing of Bottas’ stoppage gave Red Bull a window to then pit against Verstappen, who managed to complete the fastest lap before the time was knocked out as he overstepped the track limits.
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Horner added: “Sergio was the first to claim it, but Valtteri may have just squeaked a well window to get a crack. So we were like, okay, we’ll answer with Max, and try with Max. .
“The guys hit in a 1.9 second pit stop and, without the track limits that we didn’t see anyone else get the penalty Max imposed, he would have made it.”
Perez’s fourth place was the best result he got for Red Bull, but he still wasn’t able to observe Verstappen during the race itself.
Horner said he was encouraged by the continued progress Perez was making, however, and he was sure better form was within reach.
“I think he’s getting there,” he said. “Here [in Portugal] was really tough because of the wind and so on, but you can see the races come together for him when he’s in the clean air.
“Remember he managed to pass [Lando] Norris, who had passed him completely off the track. Again, another lead limits the inconsistency.
“But once in the clean air, he was doing the same time as the leaders at times, and had the fastest lap. So I think it really goes together for him. I’m happy with the progress he’s making. . ” With more time and experience, everything will come together for him. “