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Japanese GP: Sergio Perez's Suzuka 'shocker' explained and why he briefly unretired from the race

Charting a strange Sunday at the Japanese Grand Prix for Sergio Perez and explaining why he twice 'retired' from the action; Team-mate Max Verstappen won the race and Red Bull wrapped up Constructors' Championship with record six races to spare

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Sergio Perez tries to pass Kevin Magnussen but locks up and sends him spinning at Suzuka

On an otherwise jubilant Sunday for Red Bull at Suzuka as Max Verstappen swept to his latest dominant win and the team wrapped up this year's Constructors' Championship with a record six races to spare, Sergio Perez personally experienced an afternoon he branded a "disaster".

"It was a shocker of a race for him," admitted team boss Christian Horner to Sky Sports F1 after his driver was involved in two collisions and collected two five-second penalties in the space of a dozen laps at the start of the race.

But that wasn't all on what proved one of the strangest days in Perez's long career.

Initially 'retiring' with car damage at the end of his 13th lap having by then dropped to last place, Perez was back out on track the best part of an hour later as the race approached its closing stages for everyone else.

He completed three further laps and then retired again. So what was going on? Let us explain all...

Lap 1: Bumper cars caught between Ferrari and Mercedes

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Watch the run to the first corner as the McLarens targeted Max Verstappen, and Sergio Perez hit trouble behind

Already starting out of position relative to his polesitting team-mate in fifth place, after lights out Perez was quickly caught between a faster-starting Carlos Sainz, who attacked a gap between the Red Bull and the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on his outside as the field raced towards Turn One.

"I had a very bad start, there was no traction at all, and I was just a passenger going into Turn One with Sainz and Hamilton on both sides," explained Perez.

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"They just took my whole front wing off and then I just all the grip from then on."

Horner said: "He got sort of concertinaed down to Turn One. He picked up some front-wing damage, then we needed to change the front wing."

Lap 2: Overtakes Alonso under the Safety Car on way into pits

With the Safety Car dispatched mid-way around lap one so marshals could clear up several sections of debris strewn across the pit straight from several first-corner incidents, Perez ran seventh but pitted at the end of he second tour for a new RB19 nosecone.

However, he inadvertently overtook Fernando Alonso's Aston Martin as he started to peel off right for the pit lane, with passing not allowed when under Safety Car conditions.

Stewards spotted the infringement, investigated, and soon announced a five-second time penalty, in addition to adding two penalty points to Perez's superlicence.

"It was really hard for me to judge in that regard," Perez explained. "As I was coming into the pit lane I wanted to be as close as possible to Fernando to see if I could gain some positions on track. But I certainly misjudged it."

Lap 12: Serves first penalty but hits Magnussen on return

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Sergio Perez tries to pass Kevin Magnussen but locks up and sends him spinning at Suzuka

After a short stint on the hard tyres, the Mexican driver was back in the pits on lap 12, but before any work could begin on his car he first had to serve his five-second penalty, which Red Bull's crew duly did.

He was sent back on his way and rejoined behind Kevin Magnussen's Haas. Following the Dane towards Suzuka's hairpin, Perez went for a move but got the overtake all wrong and, in the words of Horner, "divebombed" into the left-rear wheel of the Haas, spinning it around.

"I was struggling to follow him in the high-speed so I knew the manoeuvre had to be done on the low-speed. But it was certainly my mistake and I apologised to Kevin," said Perez.

Stewards said the incident was under investigation. Another penalty appeared to be a slam-dunk.

Lap 13: Retires from the race - or so we think

Flagging fresh damage to his front wing and suggesting the fact the car now "doesn't feel right" following the Magnussen tangle in messages over Red Bull team radio, Perez made a third quick-fire return to the Red Bull pit box and this time the team turned the car off and wheeled it into the garage.

Perez's disappointing weekend seemed over…

Laps 40-42: Returns to the race to serve Magnusson penalty

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Sergio Perez breaks down his 'disaster' of a race at the Japanese GP after suffering broken front wings, safety car infringements and a collision with Kevin Magnussen took him out of the reckoning

At 3.15pm local time, and with the race entering its final quarter, stewards published a statement confirming a second five-second time penalty of the day for Perez for that that Magnussen incident.

"PER was trying to overtake MAG on the inside of turn 11," the report read. "The Stewards determine that PER was predominately to blame for the collision. Applying the 2023 Driving Standards Guidelines for overtaking at the inside of a corner, the Stewards noted that there was no significant portion of car 11 [Perez] alongside car 20 and therefore determined that car 11 was not entitled to racing room in turn 11. PER did not manage to do the overtaking manoeuvre in a safe and controlled manner."

Perez was also handed two more licence points, taking him up to seven of a rolling maximum of 12.

Having seemingly made repairs to the battered and bruised RB19 in the near-hour since it had been back in the garage, the team were seen preparing it on the world feed to rejoin the track and Perez eventually duly did.

"The collisions caused too much damage so we brought the car in to assess," said Perez in Red Bull's post-race release. "After fixing the car we then had a penalty to serve, which we did, and then brought the car in."

Lap 43: Retires from the race again - for real

Receiving a message to "retire the car", Perez headed back yet again to the pit lane and this time it was for good.

So why did Red Bull briefly 'unretire' Perez's car?

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Highlights of the Japanese Grand Prix from the Suzuka circuit

To know why Perez reappeared in a race he had seemingly retired from already once, we point you deep into the depths of F1's Sporting Regulations. Page 58 and Article 54.3, to be precise, governing incidents in races which states:

"If any of the four (4) penalties above are imposed upon a driver, and that driver is unable to serve the penalty due to retirement from the sprint session or the race, the stewards may impose a grid place penalty on the driver at his next race."

By re-emerging onto the track with the specific purpose of serving the Magnussen penalty, even if it had no material affect on the outcome of any result given Perez was listed last and already many, many laps down, it meant that the Suzuka stewards "may" no longer convert the penalty into a grid drop at the next race in Qatar on October 8 instead. There are no regulations preventing a car from rejoining the action from the pits if it is able to safely.

Horner confirmed: "The only good thing was we were able to serve the penalty here so it leaves it here in Japan."

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