Sergio Pérez missed out on what could have been his first podium since 2018 in Sunday’s Eifel Grand Prix. He started the race in ninth place but retirements for Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Ocon, Alexander Albon and Lando Norris left himself, Daniel Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc to battle for a podium.
Leclerc and Ricciardo pitted early on in the race where Pérez stayed out on his red soft tyres until lap twenty-eight, putting him in the stronger position to finish third with fresher tyres.
Once he pitted, he was just over fifteen seconds away from third place Ricciardo and was gaining on the Australian virtually every lap. Things took a turn on lap forty-four when the safety car was brought out due to Norris’ retirement. This meant all the front runners could pit for fresher tyres, much to Pérez’s dismay.
Come race restart on lap fifty, Pérez nearly had Ricciardo going into Turn four but couldn’t quite make it stick and from then onwards was never able to test Ricciardo and eventually crossed the line in fourth.
Pérez said: “I’m a little bit frustrated because I felt the podium was ours if we didn’t have the safety car. Until that point, I was catching Daniel (Ricciardo) and he was on older tyres – so it was set up for a close battle for the podium in the final laps. Once again, the first stint was crucial to our result. We made a good start and gained a place, and we were able to manage the tyres to run longer, so we had an advantage for the second stint.
“After the safety car, I was able to pressure Daniel and I almost got him into Turn 4 but I wasn’t able to make it stick. To finish P4 is a strong result and the team did a great job to go into a race full of unknowns and read the conditions so well. I’m pleased to see Nico score points as well and we’ve ended up turning what could have been a really difficult day into a strong result. The car is performing well and we can be proud of our recovery today. I’m going to catch up with Lance on the phone later and we’re looking forward to him returning.”
“I went out there with the goal of driving as hard as I could” – Nico Hülkenberg
Nico Hülkenberg made another late return to Formula 1 after main driver Lance Stroll become unwell going into Saturday’s sessions. He started at the back of the grid after getting no practice session and qualifying was his first time back into the RP20 since Silverstone in July.
In the race, Hülkenberg already found himself fighting through the pack on the first lap, gaining up to seventeenth. He managed to avoid all the drama’s of retirements and was able to put on a new set of slick’s to bring the car home in an impressive eighth position.
“What a race and a story that was! I really didn’t think we could go from last to eighth – I’m not sure many thought it would be possible before the race! A lot of things happened around us and some retirements helped too, but I’m really pleased with our performance and it’s a real credit to the team. I went out there with the goal of driving as hard as I could and avoiding any incidents, and we managed it well,” Hülkenberg said.
“It felt strange at the start as I’ve not raced around a lot of cars like that for a while, but I made up a couple of places and I started to get into a good rhythm halfway through the first stint, which was crucial because we were able to extend it and it helped me get up to speed. I’m feeling it now: it’s a very bumpy track and I’m a bit sore because it was mentally and physically demanding out there.
“I’m very happy with the result and it was great to play a part in the team moving up into P3 in the Constructors’ Championship. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go in the season, but I wish the team all the best in the coming races.”
“Nico was fully deserving of being voted driver of the day” – Otmar Szafnauer
CEO and Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer is very impressed with the teams performance over the weekend, especially now they are up to third in the Constructors’ Championship.
He, like his driver, bemoaned the safety car intervention that ultimately denied Pérez the opportunity to take a podium, but he was delighted with the progress made by Hülkenberg on the other side of the garage, with the German scoring four points despite running only ten laps all weekend before the start of the race.
Szafnauer said: “After a challenging weekend leading up to the race, it feels very satisfying to leave Germany with sixteen more points and to reclaim third place in the Championship. Sergio was in the hunt for a podium and, with a tyre advantage, was closing quickly on Ricciardo until the safety car levelled things. Still, fourth place is an excellent result for the entire team.
“On the other side of the garage, Nico was fully deserving of being voted driver of the day by the fans. He was up against it, having only done ten laps in the car prior to the race, so to finish in eighth is a tremendous effort. We thank him for standing in for Lance, who is feeling a bit better today and has now returned home to continue his recovery. We’re hopeful he will be back to full health in time for the next race in Portugal.”