Mexican F1 driver Sergio Perez managed to hold on to second place in Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix, but feared that his set of worn intermediates could explode at any moment.
The Racing Point driver started from third place on the grid and immediately got the jump on Max Verstappen to move up into second.
He briefly led the race on two occasions, but was passed by Lewis Hamilton on lap 37 and had no answer to the Mercedes driver’s superior pace from that point on.
Instead he focused on keeping hold of second place by managing the tyres he’d taken on lap 10 all the way through to the end of the race – which he didn’t entirely believe possible.
“I told my team on the radio, I think one more lap on those tyres and they would have exploded,” Perez informed the media after the race.
“The vibrations were extremely bad towards the end, but I think it also made that race,” he said. “Looking after them in the beginning [and] towards the end with drying conditions.
“The team did a fantastic job in terms of strategy reading the race,” he added. “Lewis today was extremely strong, and towards the end we died, but we managed to get a good result.”
It looked like the battle for second had been lost on the final lap when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc managed to pass him. But the Monegasque driver then ran wide, giving Perez the opportunity to retake the spot as he ran to the finish line.
“With Charles I wasn’t aware that he was so close to me,” he said. “So in the final lap it was pretty good battle with him. He overtook me into turn 10, and then I overtook him back into 12. It was a chaotic race!”
Perez’ other major battle had been with Max Verstappen. It looked like the Red Bull was going to pass him down the inside of turn 11 midway through the race, but Verstappen ended up spinning off in the plume of water spray thrown up by the Racing Point.
“I couldn’t see anything in my mirrors,” said Perez. “My mirrors were full of fog, so my engineer was basically telling me the gaps and so on. And then all of the sudden, I saw Max running wide and he disappeared.”
Perez finished in second place but his team mate Lance Stroll ended up in ninth despite starting from pole. Sunday’s result means that the top two finishers – Hamilton and Perez – are among those not yet signed to return to F1 in 2021.
While Hamilton’s contract extension with Mercedes appears a formality, Perez’ participation is very much in doubt after he was dropped by Racing Point in favour of Sebastian Vettel.
Asked if he hoped that this weekend’s performance might get him a race seat elsewhere on the grid for next season, Perez was cautious with his response.
“I think as always you know you have to be delivering weekend after weekend,” “You are as good as your last race, so it’s important to finish on a high. The rest is not in my hands.”
Perez is currently in fourth place in the drivers championship with three races remaining in the current campaign.