Christian Horner does not believe that Sergio Perez’s tough weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix has put him out of the running in the battle for the World Championship.
Prior to F1’s visit to the Red Bull Ring, Perez had held second in the standings behind teammate Max Verstappen.
However, the Mexican had a difficult time at the Red Bull Ring. He was firstly handed a grid drop penalty following Friday’s qualifying after being deemed to have exceeded track limits, meaning that he started Saturday’s Sprint from P13 rather than fourth.
Perez worked his way up to finish in fifth, but a first-lap collision with George Russell in Sunday’s main race left him with damage to his car, which eventually forced him to retire from the Grand Prix.
As such, race winner Charles Leclerc overtook Perez for P2 in the Drivers’ standings.
Horner: Perez’s first-lap incident “frustrating”
Russell was given a five-second time penalty for the contact with Perez, but Horner admits that the incident was still “frustrating”.
“Unfortunately, our track record of passing Mercedes around the outside of Turn 4 hasn’t been particularly stellar,” Horner joked to media, including RacingNews365.com, in reference to a similar incident between Lewis Hamilton and former Red Bull driver Alex Albon in 2020.
“But yeah, unfortunately, the amount of damage that was done was pretty significant.
“It was a lot of floor damage and, at that point, he would have probably finished maybe even two laps down, so it didn’t make sense just to put unnecessary mileage on the car.”
Horner acknowledges that Perez’s move was quite a risky one.
“I think he had such a good run out of Turn 3,” he added.
“Racing drivers, they’ve got to go for it. Obviously, on the outside of Turn 4, you rely very heavily on the guy on the inside playing ball and giving you space.
“We’ve seen it in the junior races, [that at] Turn 4 it’s a lot of risk [going] around the outside.”
Perez still in the title fight, says Horner
Perez’s DNF in Austria means that he is now 19 points behind Leclerc in the championship, and a further 57 back from Verstappen at the top.
Despite this, Horner does not think that the Mexican is now out of contention.
“We’re only just at the halfway part of the championship, and things swing around quite a lot,” the team boss explained.
“There’s still an awfully long way to go. It’s frustrating from a Constructors’ position, and Ferrari obviously had their own issue [with Carloa Sainz retiring].
“So actually, I would say this weekend was sort of damage limitation. [We] managed to get the pole, get the Sprint victory, [and] second place [in the race].
“I think Max has only lost five points to Charles in the Drivers’ [standings] and, obviously, damage has been relatively contained in the Constructors’.”