SAUBER team boss Peter Sauber has categorically refuted claims a conspiracy was at the heart of yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Swiss team missed out on a historic win by just 2.263 seconds as rising Mexican star Sergio Perez pushed Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso all the way to the line at the Sepang International Circuit.
At one stage on lap 40 Perez had closed to within 1.3secs, only for the team to ignore Ferrari’s lead and not bring him in when the conditions demanded a change from intermediate to dry tyres.
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Then on lap 50 Perez made an error of his own when he ran wide at turn 14 when he was poised to pass Alonso after again cutting the gap to 0.5secs.
The theory was, as Sauber are powered by Ferrari engines and Perez remains a product of the Maranello marque’s young driver academy, that the 22-year-old was called to file in behind Alonso.
Fuel has been added to the fire by the fact Perez’s engineer was heard over the team radio telling him ‘‘we need the position’’.
Asked about the message, Sauber said: ‘‘He meant that we needed the result. It’s a misunderstanding.
‘‘Behind us, all the midfield teams, our main competitors, scored points.
‘‘So it was important we kept the result and not the position."
Pressed on whether Perez had been told to stay behind Alonso, Sauber said: ‘‘No. We told him ‘be careful we need the result’.’’ Sauber was then quizzed on whether there had been any discussion with Ferrari, but he said: ‘‘No. 100 per cent no.
‘‘We had no discussion about Checo (Perez) nor the position.’’ It took the gloss off what was a stunning drive from Perez as he achieved his finest result in F1 and Sauber’s highest position since the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, when Nick Heidfeld was runner-up.
Lewis Hamilton had to again settle for third from pole and trails Alonso in the championship by five points.
But Hamilton said: ‘‘We can be satisfied. We would have liked more points, but I guess I can’t complain. I’m on the podium for the second week in a row so I’m pretty happy.’’ Winner Down Under a week ago, team-mate Jenson Button finished 14th after a collision with HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan forced a frontwing change.