[Perez: “Wrong place, wrong time” in Hulkenberg/Ocon Qatar F1 sprint crash
Ocon was losing ground on his fading soft tyres when Hulkenberg tried to pass him on the exit of Turn 1, and Perez in turn drew alongside the Haas as they approached the Turn 2 left-hander.
With Ocon on the inside, Hulkenberg was caught in a sandwich between the two cars. After contact from the Haas, Ocon was sent spinning across Hulkenberg’s bows and into Perez’s Red Bull.
Perez and Ocon ended their races in the gravel trap, while Hulkenberg retired after getting his damaged car back to the pits.
“It was wrong place, wrong time,” said Perez, who will start Sunday’s Grand Prix from 13th, when asked by Motorsport.com about the incident.
“The race didn’t start particularly well because we were on the medium tyre, it was very low grip to start the race on that tyre.
“We were recovering, we were making good progress, but unfortunately as I was making more progress we had this contact and I paid the price, I had massive damage on my car.
“It’s been a very frustrating day, but tomorrow it’s a new opportunity and we will give our best.”
Ocon said he didn’t know that Perez was alongside Hulkenberg as he tried to defend his position and labelled the crash a racing incident.
“We had the soft tyres, so we started very well,” said Ocon. “We made up some good places from P10 to P7, some good fights with Fernando [Alonso] also.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
“Unfortunately we were dropping back, and we were more on the defensive side than the attacking side, and obviously we had that incident when we were three abreast.
“I got a touch on the rear right, the next thing I see when I opened the eyes is I’m in the gravel.
“It is clear that I saw Nico, I knew he was there, but it is impossible for me at that point to see Sergio on the right side. Three abreast is not a good idea on that corner unfortunately, so I think it’s a racing incident.”
Hulkenberg said he could see Perez coming, and tried in vain to get out of the way.
“It all happened very quickly, very unfortunate,” said the German.
“I was attacking Esteban into Turn 1 and then on the outside line, very little grip with the sand, but undercut him and then had a good exit out of Turn 1 and kind of side-by-side a little bit into Turn 2.
“And I was obviously racing him, and mainly seeing him, and then I saw Checo appearing very late.
“And I knew it was going to get very pointy and tight. I tried to bail out, but it was too late. So, yeah, very unfortunate for all three of us.”
Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, on the grid with his engineer
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Hulkenberg acknowledged that Ocon could not have seen Perez alongside.
“I would like to give him the blame!” he said of the Frenchman.
“But I think in this case, we can’t, because I don’t think he was able to see Checo. And therefore he probably thought I had space to move more to the right.
“One of those things, but frustrating because I think today with the medium it was looking good for us.
“I think we were we could have scored one or two points. And obviously that’s very frustrating for us.”
Additional reporting by Matt Kew