The five-place grid-drop penalty handed out to Sahara Force India driver Sergio Perez after the incident in Canada that eliminated the Williams of Felipe Massa and himself will remain after a hearing in Austria deemed the punishment appropriate for the offence.
His Force India team were confident that the penalty could be overturned as they believed the telemetry and driver testimony would convince the stewards that there was no wrong-doing and the crash with Massa was a racing accident. However the FIA decided the penalty should remain, and Perez will drop five places on the grid for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. The team are not expected to appeal the penalty.
“The driver of car #11 contended that the new elements(s) evidenced that in defending his position he was exercising his right, under Article 20.4 of the 2014 Formula 1 sporting regulations, to use the whole track,” said the FIA statement.
“However, it was clear to the stewards that the defence of his position occurred in the braking area. Article 20.4 specifically states that any right to defend by using the whole track must occur prior to any braking area.
“Accordingly the driver of car #11 was not entitled to defend his position in the manner he did.”
On track, both Perez and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg quickly got up to speed around the Red Bull Ring track and are looking forward to the rest of the weekend. They both know they have work to do to get the maximum out of the car, and with the extreme competitiveness of the midfield, any small mistake will be punished.
Perez was sixth fastest in the morning session, but dropped outside the top ten into thirteenth in the afternoon. He feels there are improvements to come and is hopeful of having a good qualifying session to set him up for a points scoring race.
“It was a good day,” said Perez. “We followed our programme and managed to learn a lot about the way both tyre compounds behave over long runs. The track is very challenging and it doesn’t offer many overtaking opportunities, so grid position will be crucial for a successful weekend.
“There are still good margins of improvement we can extract: getting everything out of the car and doing the necessary changes to use the tyres in the best way will be our main objectives for tonight.”
Team-mate Hulkenberg was seventh in the first free practice session, but struggled for pace in the afternoon to slip to seventeenth, over 2.3 seconds slower than the pace set by Mercedes at the front. He knows there is work to be done to be competitive in Austria this weekend.
“It’s a fun track, quite a short lap, but it flows nicely,” said Hulkenberg. “It looks easier on paper because in reality it’s quite challenging and technical in many areas. The morning session was very solid; I was happy with the car straight away and the performance was there.
“For some reason we struggled more this afternoon on both tyre compounds and I was not as comfortable in the car: so that is where we need to analyse things tonight. One explanation could be the wind, which picked up this afternoon, but we will look deep into the data to make sure we improve things for tomorrow.”