Sergio Perez apologetic to Lewis Hamilton after key role in Max Verstappen taking F1 title

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Sergio Perez says he’s sure Lewis Hamilton will ‘understand’ after apologising to the British driver for his role in Max Verstappen’s world title win. The Mexican was forced to retire early from Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but only after holding up the Mercedes driver in exhilarating fashion midway through the race.

Despite starting second on the grid, Hamilton seared past Verstappen at the first corner and after withstanding a brief charge from the Dutchman, looked set to dominate the race as he pulled clear of his Red Bull rival.

After both drivers opted to pit, Hamilton remerged behind temporary leader Perez, whose team then opted to abandon plans to bring him into the garage in the hope he could halt the charge of the seven-time world champion.

He did exactly that, refusing to buckle under pressure as Hamilton swarmed all over him, and when he did finally relinquish his place – he duly used DRS to promptly take it back.

It forced Hamilton to overtake him a second time, and by the time he did so third placed Verstappen, who soon overhauled Perez himself, was on his tail.

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The British driver did proceed to re-open up the gap again, but Verstappen was clearly left impressed by the efforts of his teammate, describing him as a “legend” over team radio.

Afterwards, Perez insisted his desire to scupper Hamilton was not personal, just simply part of his duty to Red Bull.

“Hurting someone in a world championship is something you do not want to do, but at the end of the day I have done it for my team,” he told DAZN.

“I am sure that Hamilton himself will understand it very well. I have done everything more than for Max, for my team.”

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“These are circumstances in which life puts you there and you have to do it for them.”

It seemed like the 31-year-old’s efforts would prove futile however, when Hamilton comfortably led by 11 seconds in the closing stages.

It was then however, that Williams driver Nicholas Latifi dramatically crashed, throwing the race into chaos as a safety car was deployed, with both Red Bull drivers called into the pits for fresh tyres.

Perez would never make it back to track, a development which ultimately confirmed Mercedes as constructors’ champions, but the gamble benefitted Verstappen following a controversial finale that will go down in F1 folklore.

Perez, who joined Red Bull from Racing Point at the end of the 2020 season, ultimately finished fourth in the championship on a total of 190 points.

His sole win came at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June, but his season highlight ultimately came at his home Grand Prix in Mexico, where he notched a podium place to huge cheers from the grandstands.

Earlier this year, it was confirmed he will remain with his current team, again partnering Verstappen, for the 2022 season.

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