Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and Max Verstappen have defended Sergio Perez’s attempted move at Turn 1 on the first lap that sent him out of the Mexico City Grand Prix.

Starting third and fifth, both Red Bulls got away excellently from the grid enabling Verstappen to slice in between the Ferraris and Perez to utilise the slipstream ahead.

As Verstappen positioned his car to the inside to gain the high ground, Perez swung to the outside of polesitter Charles Leclerc to make it three abreast into the first turn.

But the Ferrari driver was caught in between the two Red Bulls, resulting in contact that sent Perez momentarily into the air and damage that brought his race to an end.

After Perez conceded that his approach was centred on gunning for victory, Horner believes that “you can’t blame” the Mexican for trying to seize the lead at his home event.

“Yeah, absolutely two contrasting emotions,” Horner said. “One absolutely gutted to see Checo go out on the first corner. He had probably his best start of the season, got the draft and the tow from the three cars ahead, and so arrived with massive overspeed.

“And you can’t blame him at his home race, going to try and take the lead of the grand prix. I think you have to call it a racing incident, because three into one doesn’t go. Charles couldn’t get out of it, he braked late.

“So yeah, frustrating for Checo and really disappointing for his fans to lose him at the first corner. And the guys did their best to get him back out. But there was just too much damage to the floor and the underbody of the car. Charles is in a bit of a Red Bull sandwich.”

Horner added: “It’s a tough moment for him. It’s in front of his home crowd, he’s very emotional. And yeah, just said to him, next race next week, you’re going for the lead in your home race, you wouldn’t be a racing driver if you weren’t going for it.”

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing on the grid. 29.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race Day.

Although Verstappen insists that Perez potentially could have afforded more room on the outside, the Dutchman has also sympathised with his team-mate’s situation.

“I understand [the move] because it’s his home Grand Prix,” he noted. “You want to be on the podium, I fully understand that he went around the outside and he tried.  

“Looking, of course, at the footage, I think he could have left a little bit more space but on the other hand if it would have worked, you look amazing. I think it’s just more that excitement of wanting to be on the podium and this time it didn’t work out, unfortunately.”

Verstappen admits that it was only until he saw the footage in the cooldown room post-race that he understood the chaos that had materialised to his left at the first turn.

“At the time, I didn’t really see a lot,” he professed. “At one point, I just saw that a car was a bit flying in the air, but then I saw the footage after the race and then you can comment on it.

“But while driving it’s a bit hard because I was mainly focusing on Charles, because I couldn’t see what was happening on the outside.”

Verstappen eventually survived a mid-race red flag restart to notch a record-breaking 16th win of 2023 by a comfortable 13.8s margin over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Horner is convinced that Perez would have accompanied his team-mate on the podium without the extensive damage that prevented Red Bull from returning him to the track.

“I think he would have been on the podium for sure today,” Horner relayed. “That was never in doubt. It’s a big loss for him today here with obviously a car that was capable of being on the podium.”

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