Sergio Perez has claimed that garbled messages from the FIA’s virtual safety car system cost him and his Red Bull team a podium finish in the French Grand Prix.
Perez was running third behind team-mate Max Verstappen and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton when a late ‘hold-station’ virtual safety car was called, but he lost the place to Mercedes’ George Russell on the re-start after confusion in the cockpit.
Perez explained: “It was very unfortunate what happened with the virtual safety car. I got the message that it was going to end out of turn nine, so I went for it, but then it didn’t end [there].
“Then it ended up after turn 12 and I was just too close to it. It seems like George had different information and he was able to prepare better for it.
“It is a shame the virtual safety car interfered in the result. It shouldn’t be the case but it was the case today. It was totally wrong, the system. There was something going on.”
Perez wary of Mercedes strength
Perez had clashed with Russell earlier in the race, when the pair went wheel-to-wheel after Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz had passed the Red Bull following a mid-race safety car.
Russell claimed it was his corner, but Perez said: “I don’t think there was much to look at. He went for it but I just had to cut the chicane.
“If I didn’t cut the corner we would have retired both cars. He just went for it and we did contact. I was ahead and yeah, he was out of control, so I had to escape.”
Ultimately, Red Bull’s loss was Mercedes' gain as it secured its first double-podium finish of the season as Lewis Hamilton was second and Russel third
Perez believes the comeback is genuine. He said: “They were quite strong, especially towards the end of that medium stint - Lewis was pretty strong and George towards the end.
“Once the VSC ended I was able to go a bit quicker and it was close there at the end with George.”