A sudden rain shower at the onset of the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort threw the race into a frenzy, with Sergio Perez taking the opportunity to switch from soft Pirellis to intermediate tyres in the first available pitstop. Beginning the race from the seventh spot, Perez managed to pull a lead of 10.4 seconds over George Russell, while Max Verstappen found himself trailing by over 14 seconds by the fourth lap.
However, two-time champion Verstappen showed the mettle he is known for, clawing back by lapping four seconds quicker than Perez and reducing the gap to four seconds. Verstappen pitted on lap 11 to get the undercut and consequently the lead in the race. According to Perez, the major difference in their pace was largely due to him having to preserve his intermediate tyres on the drying track. Red Bull had warned him of further expected rainfall.
Perez, while speaking to F1 Initiative, said, “We were expecting rain, the team was telling me that there was more rain coming. The track was on the dry side, so if I were to push, I would just have destroyed completely the inter tyre.” He believes he could have maintained his lead position longer had the rain arrived as predicted.
As the race witnessed heavy rain in its closing stages, Perez spun out of the second position. This cost him the subsequent position to Fernando Alonso. The pain of this loss was further compounded by a five-second penalty for pitlane speeding. Perez incurred this penalty when he switched to full wet tyres shortly before the red flags were announced. As a consequence, he moved from being third on the flag to a fourth position finish behind Alpine‘s Pierre Gasly.
Commending his team’s decision for an early pitstop, Perez said, “[The inters] were super, super quick, so well done for the team on that [early pitstop]. Unfortunately, we didn’t get right that there was more rain coming on the inter, otherwise we could have pushed more on that first stint. Probably keep the lead for longer…”
Perez acknowledged the initial strategy didn’t pan out well in the end, leading to them losing out on a podium finish which he felt they deserved. In response to Verstappen’s undercut, Perez stopped on lap 12, shedding his intermediates, to return to the track 3.5 seconds behind his teammate.
Reflecting on the lost track position, Perez stated, “I think that in those scenarios the team just have more information than we do at the time. So, it’s something we obviously will review during the meeting, and I’m sure there’s a reason behind it.”