Sunday’s Safety Car at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was a game-changer for Racing Point. In fact, it may have lost them the lead in the constructor’s title championship over their closest rivals, Renault and McLaren.
Racing Point’s Sergio Perez had used his superior tire management skills from 11th place to move all the way up to 4th place on a long first stint. When the safety car came out, the team boxed him for a set of new Soft compounds and relinquished track position and a podium finish. Perez ended up in 6th place and this move left many in the paddock and around the world scratching their heads as to why they chose to box Sergio out of 3rd place.
Racing Point technical director, Andrew Green, said there was a reason for the decision.
“The race was going our way completely,” said Green. “Up until the safety car Checo maneuvered himself, with great pace, up to fourth.
“He overtook the pack by going longer on the medium tires, he drove really well, the car was really strong, we were very happy with where it was going.
“And the worst possible scenario was a safety car. And that was not really how we were geared up, unfortunately. It was always going to be a difficult decision, that one.
“We were on the hard tires, the car had been set up, quite specifically, for the long runs, and for the race we were incredibly nervous about having to restart the hard tires behind the safety car. And I think we would have struggled.
“So the safest thing to do, and we thought that the most logical thing to do, was to swap him for a set of the new softer tires, so that we didn’t have to worry about that. We thought other people might do the same, but a lot depends on how they were set up for the race.
“And I think it probably just showed where our race pace was, because we’d set the car up to look after the tires and be kind and not overheat them. So we were always going to struggle behind the safety car in that situation.”
There is reality that if they had chosen not to box, those around him may / most likely would have done the opposite depending on the time gaps and attacked a cold-tire nursing Perez with fresh rubber. Could with George Russell’s embarrassing moment which prolonged the safety car period and took away vital laps that Perez needed to make the best use of his Soft compounds and attack.
“And then we’ve got the other thing with a second incident behind the safety car, we couldn’t have predicted that one,” he said.
“So the number of laps remaining to overtake was shortened again, by a considerable margin. So I think that worked against us.
“In hindsight, we would have made a different decision. But I think at the time with the information we had that’s the decision we came to.”
Safety Cars traditionally help some and hinder others. That’s usually the way it goes but this seemed like a self-inflicted wound and that’s what made it more odd. However, we won’t know who would have boxed had Perez chose not to and how that would have played out. It was a gamble that didn’t pay off. F1 is ripe with those by the way.