Sergio Perez has described his defence of Lewis Hamilton as "critical" to Max Verstappen's charge to the F1 drivers' title at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton was seemingly in control of the Yas Marina race but after making his pit stop, the Mercedes driver exited behind Mexican Perez who had extended his first stint on the soft tyres.
Although Hamilton made his move into turn six, Perez fought back with DRS to retake the lead into the reprofiled turn nine.
By the time seven-time champion made his way past, his seven-second lead over Verstappen had been eradicated, taking away strategic safety net in case of a virtual or full safety car period.
This would transpire to be a disadvantage as, when Antonio Giovinazzi ground to a halt and triggered a VSC, Hamilton did not have a sufficient window back to the Red Bull driver to be able to make a pit stop and retain track position.
Verstappen, conversely, was able to do so and with fresh tyres, pulled back in towards Hamilton, ensuring Mercedes were also unable to stop at the final safety car period without conceding position.
"I mean it was crucial that time of the race because I knew that Lewis had the race under control," explained Perez.
"He had the virtual and safety car windows pretty much so that he could have done whatever he wanted at the time.
"He had the race under control so at the time it was critical but I was on extremely old tyres. It worked well and at the end of the day I am happy I helped Max and the team."
"It is a hard one because, at the same time, you don't want to interfere too much in the drivers' championship but yeah, I think above everything it will always be my team."
Referring to his comment that he didn't want to interfere, Perez was asked whether he was concerned about making contact with Hamilton.
He replied: "Yeah, but at the same time obviously I was in a position where there was not much to lose. It is not the place where you want to be but at the same time, I will always put my team before anything."
"It was a gamble because at that point, you are a piece of cake after 18 or 19 laps on the soft tyres and Lewis was on fresh rubber. But it worked well.
"I think those are the things like [qualifying] with the tow, if you plan it, things can go really wrong."