Verstappen blames Perez for first lap clash in Portimão

With both Mercedes drivers in dominant form at Portimão on Sunday, third place on the podium was the best that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen could have hoped for in the Portuguese Grand Prix.

He challenged Valtteri Bottas at the start but lost out and ran wide, and ended up making contact with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez as he recovered.

“It was very low grip,” he told the media after the race. “I tried to stay out of trouble

“The start was pretty okay in itself but in turn 3 I was in a bit in trouble, then Perez came in turn 4,” he continued.

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“I had a little touch with Sergio but he didn’t give me enough space to basically took himself out. But luckily he didn’t damage my car.”

Perez had a different view of the incident, which saw him spin off the track and have to limp back to pit lane for new tyres.

“It was a chaotic first lap and I could see the Mercedes struggling in the warm-up lap,” he told Sky Sports F1 after finishing in seventh place. “I knew there would be some opportunity for me.

“Max was closing on them. I saw that Valtteri pushed Max wide and then he came back onto the track too aggressively causing a collision.

“I saw an opportunity and gave Max enough space. However, it was very difficult in that first lap. Everyone had problems with the tyres. We hit each other very late in the corner.

“It was then made worse by having a puncture and having to stop on the first lap,” he added.

The big winners on the opening lap were the two McLarens. Verstappen was passed by both Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, with the Spanish driver going on to take the lead for four laps.

“It was raining a little bit so I just tried to keep the car on track once everything was stabilised,” he recalled. “Those McLarens had a lot of grip on the first lap, I don’t know how

“I found it difficult to get temperature in the tyres. I didn’t want to take too much risk, because I knew we were faster than the McLarens [in the long run].

“Once we got the temperature it went pretty well,” he continued. “But that soft tyre just started to wear off a bit at a certain point. Left front was just gone and you lose a lot of lap time.”

“I was just running my own race after that. I went on to the medium tyres which had good pace but of course the gap is already so big you can’t really do anything.

Verstappen denied that it had been a mistake to start the race on the soft compound, while both Mercedes cars opted for the medium.

“We didn’t do anything wrong with the strategy,” he stated. “I tried everything I could on the formation lap to warm them up [the soft tyres] and I don’t think I’m normally that bad ont he first lap, but it was very tricky.

“The medium tyre was definitely the best tyre so it wouldn’t have mattered if we had started on the medium because then I would have lost my time on the hard [in the final stint].

“At the end of the day P3 is just what we deserve, because Mercedes was clearly too fast,” he acknowledged. “Of course I hope we can catch up with them as soon as possible, but they are not stupid.”

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