Perez praises “very fair” Alonso in battle for final podium place at F1 São Paulo GP

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Despite losing out on a podium place in the final lap of the 2023 São Paulo GP, Sergio Perez was full of praise for Fernando Alonso’s “very fair” racing which saw the pair duelling for almost half of the race at Interlagos.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

The Mexican had a good race in Interlagos, moving up from his lowly ninth place grid spot to fourth place at the chequered flag, fighting Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin all the way to the line for P3.

Speaking to selected media after the race, Perez was left frustrated with how his race unfolded after being stuck behind the two Mercedes cars during the first stint, which left him on the “backfoot” in his fight with Alonso for the final podium place:

“It took me a while to get through the Mercedes [cars], and basically that damaged my race,” said Perez. “After that, we were always a bit on the backfoot. With Fernando [Alonso], we were chipping away from him towards the end, and we got really close to getting to the podium.”

Despite losing out to him the fight for the podium, the Red Bull driver was full of praise for the Spaniard, saying there are “very few drivers” that allow for such close and fair racing on the current grid:

“But I have to say, well done to Fernando. It was a great fight, very fair racing, and that’s something really good with how hard we raced each other – always [leaving] a lot of room – with very few drivers you can do this,” he said.

“Fernando will always try to play any game, but he will always be fair. It was great racing, whoever got the podium was well deserved, and he got it.”

By getting ahead of the Aston Martin on the penultimate lap, Perez allowed Alonso to get back at him on the final tour – but the six-time grand prix winner is adamant he wouldn’t change anything on his approach to the fight if he were to do it again, saying he “went” for his one and only opportunity:

“Looking at it, I had an opportunity and I went for it,” he said. “I drained a bit my [battery] pack, and he was really fast on the straights, because he was eight tenths away from me [after turn 12] and he was there [by turn one], but I don’t think I could have done anything differently in those last laps, it was just the way we raced.”

Whilst he may have lost out in P3, fourth place and 12 points moved the Mexican well clear from Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, with the pair now separated by 28 points with just two rounds remaining. He labelled his Sunday at Brazil as a “good day” in his quest for a career-best second place in the standings, with Hamilton finishing down in eighth:

“It [was] a good weekend on the championship, because we are getting closer to that second spot,” said Perez. “I would have liked to be on the podium – it hurts losing, but I’m happy for Fernando, because he did a good race.”

After a poor run of form which saw the Mexican trailing Verstappen quite badly in recent races, Perez seems to have recovered his form since the United States GP, with the gap especially in qualifying coming down significantly between the pair. He puts it down to a turning point after the Qatar GP, and said he’s yet to show “what he’s got” in terms of a full weekend:

“After Qatar, when I went back to the team, we understood a lot of things we were doing wrong,” he explained. “In Austin we compromised a bit our weekend, then Mexico was quite good – I went off, but I was very close to the lead [pace-wise]. All in all, I think we’re really making good progress.

“I think the pace has been there for the last few weekends, but for some reason or another we haven’t been able to put it all together. I think it’s just a matter of time before it will come.

“Now let’s look forward to [Las Vegas], and I believe it’s just a matter of time before we show what we’ve got.”