MONDAY MORNING ADDENDUM: Why Red Bull didn’t have an answer for Mercedes and Ferrari at the Sao Paulo GP | Formula 1® – Formula 1 | CarTailz

Sergio Perez was never a threat to first-time winner George Russell in Brazil but ran behind him as a solid second for a long time. Still, he finished a haphazard seventh place.

Aside from the controversy between himself and teammate Max Verstappen over team orders, how did he escape all of this? It was all about tire choice and the reasons for that go back to the beginning of the weekend and the special characteristics of the Red Bull at this track.

Next weekend the medium C3 compound tire should be the basis for a typical Interlagos two-stopper, with likely a short opening stint on the soft C4 and two on the medium C3. But the weekend’s sprint format meant there was less time than usual to confirm this, with just a single practice session ahead of Friday’s qualifying session.

READ MORE: Russell claims his first win as Hamilton assists Mercedes 2-1 in Sao Paulo

From his allocation of six soft, four medium and two hard tires, Perez used one set of soft tires and one set of hard tires in FP1 (affirming that the hard ones were too slow to be of strategic use), three sets softer in qualifying and ran only tires in FP2 on Saturday morning – leaving him two sets of soft tires for the sprint race and all his middle tires.


Red Bull’s drivers approached the sprint differently, with Perez running on soft tires and Verstappen on medium tires

At this point, Red Bull had not run either car on the medium tire but had saved them soft/medium/medium for the scheduled two-stop race. But FP2 had shown a very high level of front deterioration.

Verstappen’s side of the garage argued that from P2 on the grid for the sprint alongside polesitter Kevin Magnussen, who was not on position, he would be able to take the middle tire so as to minimize deterioration.

Even on this less grippy tyre, they believed he would be able to take the lead and control it whilst the tire took a few laps longer to warm up then hopefully he could pull away and win.

READ MORE: Russell left ‘speechless’ by landmark F1 win after ’emotional roller coaster ride’ for Mercedes in 2022

Ninth on the grid, Perez had to make up places and didn’t feel he could afford the luxuries of the medium and had to ride on the soft races and control the deterioration as best he could.


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Verstappen struggled with the middle tire and was passed by Russell for the sprint win

When Verstappen first switched to the medium in the sprint race, he found that the Red Bull’s front degradation was just as high as the soft, despite being a much slower tyre. He fought his way up to fourth, comfortably beaten by Russell, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton on soft tires and just ahead of Perez on soft tires.

This exposed the original soft/medium/medium Sunday schedule as inappropriate. The soft – not the medium – should be the tire of choice. The medium was both slow and no more durable than the soft.

However, Perez stuck to the original plan with just one set of softs and all of his original four sets of medium. Verstappen’s use of medium in the sprint had given him at least two sets of softs for the Grand Prix and his strategy was altered accordingly.

READ MORE: “We’re still the best team,” says defiant Hamilton after Mercedes won an impressive 2-1 in Sao Paulo

Starting on the soft slopes, Perez all went reasonably well in his first stint as he took a comfortable second place behind Russell after Hamilton and Verstappen delayed each other’s collision at the restart on lap 7.


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Russell led the start of the main Grand Prix ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen and Perez

Perez steadily pulled away from the medium-tyred Sainz in third place, but the latter’s early stop (because of his locked rear brake pipe) and switch to the soft tires began to put undercutting pressure on Perez and he was brought into the race earlier than ideal 23, and switched to the media.

Those tires were just as problematic as they were for Verstappen the day before and Perez was struggling for pace. He was passed by the recovering Hamilton in second place and undercut by Sainz in third place.

READ MORE: Verstappen on why Hamilton clash was ‘a disgrace’ – and his ‘reasons’ for not following team orders in Sao Paulo

Perez regained a place when Sainz made a third stop but appeared to lose it again as the Ferrari would get back at him much quicker on another set of softs while the Mexican was forced to take another set of mediums.


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Verstappen and Hamilton collided dramatically after the first safety car restart

Perez therefore appeared set for a damage control drive to fourth and with his rival for second in the title race, Charles Leclerc was betting a distant fifth if he could overtake Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa.

But then the safety car came to clear Lando Norris’ broken-down McLaren. Now Perez was in deep trouble as his mid-size tire was certainly warming up worse than the soft-tired cars all lined up behind him.

READ MORE: Ricciardo handed over 3rd place on the grid for McLaren’s final outing after Magnussen’s contact at the Sao Paulo GP

He was left a sitting duck, passed by Sainz, Leclerc, Fernando Alonso and Verstappen (under team direction). The latter’s refusal to give him back sixth place only added to Perez’s misery.

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