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Sergio Perez of Red Bull says that he lost third place at the Formula 1 French Grand Prix because he got a “totally wrong” message about when the virtual safety car was going to end.
In the last part of Sunday’s Paul Ricard race, Perez and Mercedes’s George Russell were in a fight for the last spot on the podium.
When Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo broke down at Turn 6 with four laps left, the virtual safety car was called.
The VSC ended on lap 51 of 53, but Perez got a wrong message from the FIA that told him racing would start later than it did. This let Russell take the last spot on the podium from the Red Bull driver.
According to the rules for virtual safety car periods, the green flag must be shown 10 to 15 seconds after the first “end” message. In this case, it took almost a minute.
“What happened with the virtual safety car was very unfortunate,” Perez said after finishing fourth on Sunday.
“I heard from Turn 9 that it was going to end, so I went for it, but it didn’t end. Then I got a message that said it would end at Turn 12. And I was too close for comfort.
“It seems like George had different information and was better able to get ready for it [the restart].
“To be honest, I think it’s a shame that the virtual safety car messed with the result. It shouldn’t be like this, but it was like this today.
“It [the message of VSC ending] was completely wrong. Something was going on because it said it would end on Turn 9, but it didn’t end until Turn 12.
F1: “Totally wrong” VSC message cost me third place – Perez
Christian Horner, the boss of the Red Bull team, thinks that Perez could have held off Russell in the last three laps if there hadn’t been a problem with the VSC. He wants to talk to the FIA about it to find out what happened.
“Checo had a little more trouble with [tyre] wear this weekend than we’ve seen in the past,” Horner said.
“What was frustrating for him was that there was a problem with the safety car, the VSC, in race control. They couldn’t turn it off, so they had to reset.
“I just talked to him, and he said that his car wasn’t getting the delta, so he was banging on his delta.
“Either George knew about it ahead of time but was still in the delta, or the information in the two cars was different.”
“We need to find out more about that. Yes, it was annoying because I think he would have been fast enough to beat him and get on the podium twice.
“But, even so, today is still a big day in both championships.”