Formula 1 drivers share the circuit, but it does not always seem that way. Riders regularly encounter each other and often both parties involved believe that they are the innocent party. Based on the regulations and common sense, F1Maximaal.nl highlights the biggest incident after each race and determines which driver should have given priority.
Anyone who searches the International Sporting Code for a specific explanation of what is and is not allowed on the circuit will be in for a rude awakening. Whether a driver is punished for an incident or not depends entirely on what the stewards present make of it. However, the FIA did release a ‘FIA Formula 1 Driving Standards Guidelines’ document in March 2022. Based on this document, we look at the reasonableness of an overtaking action.
Pérez builds up to home race
Sergio Pérez is slowly becoming a regular in this section. For those who have missed who was wrong several times: after Singapore and after Japan, it was the Red Bull Racing driver who was already in the spotlight. Twice it became clear that Pérez made a mistake, and not just a little. Yuki Tsunoda, Alexander Albon and Kevin Magnussen all had to deal with a frustrated driver who often entered the fight too aggressively.
At Circuit of the Americas in the United States, things went better in relative terms for the Mexican, who performed an excellent dress rehearsal for his home race in Mexico. Pérez also performed well in qualifying. You can expect better than P5 in the Red Bull, but he was only two tenths behind teammate Max Verstappen. That gap has regularly been bigger this season.
The moment of truth
Pérez starts his home race from P5, in a car that is theoretically good enough to take victory. He already achieved the podium at Autodrómo Hermanos Rodríguez, so he wanted more, as he himself indicated in interviews after the incident. So when he looked forward to the five red lights going out, he did so with an all-or-nothing mentality. If Pérez were to get through that first corner unscathed, he should be in the lead.
The first corner in Mexico is known in the paddock as one of the most intense first corners. After all, the run-up to that first corner is long, and drivers know that the two front men leave a slipstream. That is why people usually go through the first bend three people wide. This was also the case in 2023. Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Pérez were the gentlemen who claimed P1 in this edition with a good exit, but it turns out that you first need a good entry for that.
If we dive into the images of this crucial moment of the race, we see that Verstappen, who made a good start from third place, decisively opts for the inside bend. Leclerc, slightly hindered by the thin Mexican airflow, but also not as good in the Ferrari as the Dutchman in his Red Bull, positions himself to the left of the RB19. Pérez completes the row of cars by placing his car next to that of the Monegasque, like a true Red Bull sandwich.
Leclerc brakes late, Pérez steers in
The first thing that stands out when we analyze the images is that Leclerc probably braked later than Pérez expected. In the Ferrari he had enough grip to follow Verstappen’s late braking behavior, which meant that the two gentlemen were still next to each other until just before the apex. Pérez, present on the outside of the bend, steers in at the right time, if he wanted to hit the apex in that bend. Unfortunately for the multiple Grand Prix winner, there were two drivers in the inside bend that made that route impossible.
It must be said that Pérez was half a car length ahead of Leclerc’s Ferrari, and that in theory he was indeed entitled to space in that corner. The biggest problem with this incident, however, was that Leclerc simply could not give him this space, a fact that was lost on the booing Mexican fans around the track. Leclerc had a car on his left and on his right. If he had swerved for one Red Bull, he would have knocked the other Red Bull off the circuit.
Legally, this is an open-and-shut case. Yes, Pérez and Leclerc both had the right to drive where they did. Leclerc could not offer more space than he did and is therefore not to blame. Pérez steered into an apex knowing that two drivers were in his inside corner. If he had entered later and taken his extra speed with him, there was still a good chance that he would have come out of the first corner in second place. It’s a shame that he had to abandon the match almost immediately.
Can we identify someone to blame?
It is difficult to speak of guilt in this incident when we look at Leclerc. Perhaps that was also the reason why so many fans were outraged by the behavior of the Mexican fans. Leclerc himself managed to sum it up well after the race while he was being booed. He apologized to the fans, but emphasized that he had nowhere to go. Leclerc mainly played the role of spectator in this incident.
Because Pérez mainly ruined his own Grand Prix, it is not surprising that this is recorded as a racing incident by the stewards. After all, if anyone was to blame, it would have been Pérez. Once again we can speak of an error of judgment by the Red Bull veteran, who may have permanently lost his seat to Daniel Ricciardo – a man who had a particularly strong weekend.
If we look at the FIA guidelines, we can say that Pérez scores negative points on two fronts. First of all, he left no room for a colleague by steering in while that colleague had another car next to him. Had Verstappen not dived into that inside bend, Pérez could have asked for an explanation after his action, but not now. In addition, you can say that aiming for the apex with two competitors on the inside verges on recklessness. In other words: if the FIA had handed down a penalty, it would have been for Pérez, and not for Leclerc. A shame, but another chance next year. The only question then is whether he will still get that chance in a Red Bull, and not an AlphaTauri.