Perez sees the bigger picture despite agonising late Bahrain retirement

Sergio Perez was quickly able to shrug off the disappointment of a late retirement costing him a podium in the Bahrain Grand Prix when he learned the news that Romain Grosjean was safe and well.

The Mexican was running a strong third and under no threat to his position until three laps from the end of the race, when an MGU-K issue caused him to park his flaming Racing Point by the side of the road.

Yet the flames from Perez’s car were absolutely nothing in comparison to the horrendous fireball that consumed colleague Romain Grosjean’s Hass on the opening lap when the Frenchman ploughed straight through the Armco barrier and amazingly emerged from the wreckage with just burns to his hands.

“It’s really hard for both myself and the team to take today’s result, but in the grand scheme of things, it almost becomes irrelevant after Romain’s crash at the start,” said Perez after the race. “At the end of the day, it’s either one more or one less podium or trophy for me, but the important thing is that Romain is still with us and that he’s ok. I wish him all the best. It was certainly hard to get back into the car after seeing something like that, but you just have to focus and prepare for the race.”

As for the race itself, Perez started from fifth on the grid and executed a perfect strategy, swapping his medium tyres for a set of new hard tyres 16 laps in before a safety car caused by teammate Lance Stroll’s accident allowed him another set of hards to last to the finish.

“I think we executed a perfect race, and the podium was definitely ours – it was going to be one of my best in Formula 1,” added Perez. “It was gutting to retire with three laps left due to an MGU-K electrical issue. We were going to finish ahead of a Red Bull and a Mercedes, which is a great credit to all of us at the team, and we’d done such a good job all weekend too. We’ve lost out on some really important points today, which makes it a bit more difficult in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship battles, but the positive is that there are still two more races to make up for it.”

For teammate Stroll, it was yet another tale of bad luck, the Canadian being flipped onto his roof by Daniil Kvyat before he crawled to safety, in what was a second frightening incident of the race. But he soon put aside thoughts of his own wellbeing to express his thanks that Grosjean was safe and well.

“I’m really happy that Romain was able to walk away from that crash as it was a scary one to see happen,” said Stroll. “I think all of us drivers in the pitlane had to stop for a second and reset before getting back into the car. I’m definitely thinking of him. For me, personally, I’m really frustrated by the race. We’ve scored two points since Monza and it’s been a series of incidents outside of my control that’s caused it. At one point this season we were P4 in the Drivers’ Championship and we’d had such a strong start to the year, so that makes the current situation all the more frustrating.

“I can’t say much about today’s incident, I was going through Turn 8 and was mid-corner when I was hit by Daniil [Kvyat] who came out of nowhere and connected with me. The crash looked worse than it was: I’m ok, and Daniil got a penalty. There’s no point thinking about what could have been today or in the previous events. We won’t dwell on it because there’s nothing we can do about it now. We need this run of bad luck to end and we’ll focus on coming back stronger next week and finishing the season on a high.”

For team boss Otmar Szafnauer, it was galling to lose another almost nailed on podium as the team lost its 3rd place in the constructors’ standings. But again, the bigger picture was the safety of the drivers on what could have been a dark day for the sport.

“A tough evening in Bahrain,” reflected Szafnauer. “Checo was cruelly denied a podium after an MGU-K issue forced us to park the car with three laps remaining. Up to that point, he had driven a flawless race, managing the tyres perfectly, and running comfortably in third place. Lance was just as unlucky – being eliminated through no fault of his own after Kvyat flipped him over. It was a scary moment, but fortunately Lance was checked at the medical centre and is ok.

“It makes the fight for third in the championship more difficult, but there are still two races to go, plenty of points available, and we know we have a competitive car. We will give everything we have to recover the lost points today and reclaim third in the championship. Regarding Romain’s accident, we share the relief of the entire paddock that he only has minor injuries. It was a frightening accident and credit to the FIA and sport as a whole for the safety standards we have worked hard to deliver in recent times.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.