Checo Pérez and Russell had a tough battle for third position in the final part of the French Grand Prix last Sunday at Circuit Paul Ricard , when the race was neutralized with a Virtual Safety Car to remove Zhou ‘s Alfa Romeo.
When the race resumed on lap 51 of the planned 53, Pérez was surprised because a fault in the system, later recognized by the FIA, caused the first VSC finish message to not materialize, which led to one second by race direction.
“I got the message that I was going to finish at Turn 9, so I sped up and then it didn’t finish. Then I got the message that I was going to finish at Turn 12. the VSC). It seems that George had different information and was able to prepare better for it (the restart),” said Pérez after the race was over, where he finished fourth behind George Russell.
In an analysis after the French GP, James Vowles , director of strategy at Mercedes, detailed the entire process around the Virtual Safety Car and highlighted the good work by Russell to take advantage of the situation and overtake Sergio Pérez.
“Normally, with a VSC the process is as follows: the drivers and teams see the FIA message of completion of the Virtual Safety Car. We know that in a minimum of ten seconds and a maximum of 15 seconds later the track will be put into green and the race will resume. And it’s random on purpose to prevent the drivers from getting ahead of that condition. Here, in this circumstance, ten seconds passed, fifteen seconds passed and more passed again and nothing happened: all the pilots followed under that VSC condition,” Vowles began.
“The FIA then sent a second VSC completion message, which meant that we already knew that the process was restarted and that at least ten seconds later the race would resume. During that period when the VSC ends, the drivers carry out a A series of adjustments to make sure they’re ready to race again, for example by putting the power unit in the right mode, putting the tires in the right (performance) spot, and putting the brakes in the optimal spot. Ten seconds is used to great effect and when all of a sudden you have planned one thing and nothing happens because the race just doesn’t resume, it becomes difficult or may become difficult for the drivers and it catches you off guard,” the Mercedes man continued.
“I think that’s what happened in the case of George and Perez. George was really good on the second restart, he had everything in place and he was able to get the jump and that’s what it looked like, he was able to overtake. The drivers have several indications that the race is resuming: their dashboard, for example, will show that the VSC has been removed and is green, but also the light panels on the track that can be seen on television will disappear and will go green, so we know the race has resumed.”
(The happiness for the double podium of Mercedes)
Photo by: Carl Bingham/Motorsport Images
Regardless of how it happened, Russell’s overtaking of Perez meant Mercedes’ first double podium finish this season, as Lewis Hamilton finished second behind winner Max Verstappen.
When asked how the team experienced the fact of finally having its two drivers on the podium in the same race, Vowles commented: “The answer is in the factory and in the team that was on the circuit on Sunday, where I could see that everyone had a sense of relief. It’s a strong result for the team, it puts us back in the fight for the top positions in the championship and it shows that two drivers have performed admirably on the track with Pérez, in one case defending and in another attacking, but in the end we were able to get ahead”.
However, the Brackley team’s chief strategist warns that there were nuances for Mercedes to take a double podium at Paul Ricard.
“The harsh reality that in qualifying we were almost nine tenths short and even in the race we were short a few tenths, continues to hit us. We continue to know we have an uphill battle and on this particular occasion, there was a unit power penalty. for Sainz that sent him to the back and in the case of Pérez, a weekend in which he was not in the rhythm that he normally has. That harsh reality is what makes us work incredibly hard every day, we want to go back to be ahead and it will take time, but we are achieving it”, he concluded.