Sergio Perez says he was “extremely happy” to provide support to Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
As the two title contenders made their pit stops on Lap 14 and Lap 15 respectively, Red Bull kept Perez out on his worn softs.
Hamilton was running over seven seconds clear of Verstappen after the round of stops.
The Mercedes driver closed up to the back of Perez on Lap 20, overtaking him into Turn 6.
Perez used DRS on the second straight to get back ahead before backing up significantly in the final sector, costing him over five seconds on Lap 20 alone.
Hamilton ultimately got back through but his lead had vanished as Perez let his teammate through with just a one-second deficit to his rival,
Perez’s robust defence ultimately proved crucial as Hamilton no longer had a gap to pit if a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car deployed, which it did late on, ultimately deciding the destination of the title race.
Reflecting on his battle with the seven-time world champion, Perez admitted that he didn’t want to get involved in the title fight but did it for the good of the team.
“Yes, it was a very critical point of the race,” Perez said. “We really need to go through to hold Lewis; basically he had the race under control… I think Max was 10 seconds or more behind, so that would have given him just enough room for all the windows, you know, with all the Virtual and Safety Cars.
“I’m extremely happy that I could do something. I was on extremely old tyres and there was not much I could do but I managed to take a couple of seconds out of Lewis.
“I mean, I’m sure Lewis will understand, you know, it’s not – as a driver you don’t want to get involved in the championship; they’ve worked so hard for it in this moment, but it’s my team. I’ve done it for my team, and I’m sure the sport and everyone will understand it.”
Perez was third on soft tyres under the Safety Car but Red Bull called him in suddenly to retire him from the race.
He confirmed that Red Bull didn’t want to risk prolonging the Safety Car period due to a potential engine issue.
“I am pleased, I mean, today we had to retire,” he added. “I think we would have come really close if I finished probably second with the way it was looking, we could have done the one-two today, so I mean we had to retire because the engine was so-so, so we could create another Safety Car, but I mean it’s a great result. It’s a great team result.”
F1 2021 Perez triumph F1 2021 Perez triumph