While the ploy proved unsuccessful as a lunge from Leclerc on the final lap ensured he split the Red Bulls, Verstappen admits that he did comply with the team’s instruction.
“Even on the last lap, I tried to give Checo a bit more of a tow but unfortunately the top speed was not enough to keep Charles behind, which of course was unfortunate because I think it would have been, of course, even better to have the one-two here, because I think it was a very fun race and, you know, the three of us, we all led, so it was a good race,” Verstappen explained.
However, Perez’s first podium appearance since the Italian GP in September was enough to secure him second place in the Drivers’ standings with one round remaining.
Despite returning to the rostrum, Perez concedes third place left him in an ambivalent mood after recovering from damage on the first lap to contend the win.
“Well, it’s a bit of mixed feelings, you know, because if you just look at the full picture, I think it’s quite tough,” Perez reflected.
“Yeah, looking fully back on my race, you know, with so much damage in Lap One, basically, front wing damage. Everyone stopped on the outside, there was no grip on that initial lap. And unfortunately, the first target for me was just not to get any damage, because I knew how low grip conditions was going to be. And I ended up having that damage, unfortunately.
“And for me, at that point on, it was all about recovering, trying to get Lewis first because he was the target to seal second in the championship today.
“But the pace on that Hard was tremendous and that really brought me back on the race. I was just overtaking cars every lap and we were really, really strong. And it really brought us back into the race. And once the Safety Car came out, that really put us in contention for the victory.
“And yeah, in the initial laps, went through Charles, relatively easy but then I just couldn’t pull away from him. Unfortunately, I think we were just cutting a little bit too much rear wing on my car, and my top speed was quite a bit down. My clipping as well.
“So once I was on the lead, I just couldn’t pull away from Charles. And then we had Max also in the picture. So overall, I think it was a nice comeback.”
Meanwhile, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner lavished praise on Perez for the comeback drive that ensures the Austrian outfit will lock out the top two positions in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time.
“For Checo to pick up front wing damage, a nose change on the first lap, go to the back of the field, come through and recover to lead the race and ultimately finished third on the last corner, which bags him second place in the championship. I thought again was an excellent drive from him today,” he added.