Perez can reprise underdog role in Malaysia

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Somewhat fortuitously, Sergio Perez has the opportunity to reprise his starring effort of a year ago in Malaysia in an underdog role once again.

The difficult weekend for McLaren in Melbourne has lowered expectations for the team heading into Malaysia. Perez’s teammate Jenson Button has gone so far as to say the McLaren won’t win a race this year in its current configuration.

For Perez, who probably would have won in last year’s rain-drenched race in a faster Sauber Ferrari before sliding off course while chasing Fernando Alonso, it’s a sterling opportunity to punch above his and the team’s weight once again.

“For me, Sepang holds many happy memories – I had one of the best races of my career there last year where I was able to push Fernando for victory until the closing laps,” he said. “It’s a fantastic circuit, really fast and demanding. It would be great to pull off another unexpected result for the team this year.”

The Mexican driver still finished second, marking his first of three podium finishes he secured for the Swiss team a year ago.

Perez realizes that the team’s main objective is just maximizing its package, and is probably doubtful to contend for the victory unless the race becomes a tire or weather lottery. One of his noted strong suits is his ability to take it easy on the tires throughout a stint.

“Last weekend’s race was a difficult one for everybody on the team, but it’s shown us exactly what we need to do to close down the gap to the leaders,” he admitted. “This weekend in Malaysia will be about trying to maximize the package we have while knowing that it’s not going to be enough to allow us to fight for overall victory.”

Lauda labels Verstappen USGP penalty ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’

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Mercedes Formula 1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has called the FIA stewards’ decision to penalize Max Verstappen for his last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to take third place from Raikkonen on the last lap after a stunning fight through the field, completing the fightback with a bold pass in the final sector.

However, the stewards stripped Verstappen of P3 after he appeared to put all four wheels off the circuit when riding the kerb to pass Raikkonen, causing outcry in the F1 community.

Speaking to reporters after the race in Austin, Lauda condemned the stewards’ decision, slamming them for interfering in the late fight.

“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” Lauda said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“So we complained about that and we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere – very simple.

“If the driver goes over another and upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year.

“For six months it was OK, but this decision was the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong.”

Lauda said F1 team bosses would discuss stewarding at the next Strategy Group meeting, which is due to be held in the next two weeks.

“These are racing drivers. We are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions,” Lauda said.

“At the next strategy meeting, we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that.

“They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”