No conspiracy over Perez, blasts Sauber after Mexican settles for second in Malaysia
16:33 GMT, 25 March 2012
Sauber team boss Peter Sauber has categorically refuted claims a conspiracy was at the heart of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The Swiss team missed out on a historic win by just 2.263secs 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 not follow Ferrari's lead and bring him when the conditions demanded a change from intermediate to dry tyres.
Champagne moment: Sergio Perez celebrates finishing second in Malaysia
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.
'It was because that behind us, all the midfield teams, our main competitors, scored points.
'So it was important we kept the result and not the position.'
Team effort: Perez celebrates with Sauber after the Malaysian Grand Prix
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. 100 per cent nothing.
'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, and at a time when the team were heavily backed by BMW.
Perez proved himself in very tough conditions as the race was suspended for 51 minutes after nine laps due to heavy rain.
In high humidity the track did not start to dry out until near the end, yet Perez managed to reel in Alonso on inters and dry tyres, only to fall short.
Race is on: Perez tracked Fernando Alonso but was unable to overtake
Extolling Perez's virtues, Sauber said: 'He drove an outstanding race and rose above our expectations.
'What surprised me most was the fact he was very competitive in all conditions and with all tyres.
'Whether they were wet, intermediate or dry tyres he was always one of the fastest drivers on track, if not the fastest.'
Perez knows it was an opportunity missed as he said: 'I think I could have won it, definitely.
'I was catching Fernando toward the end of the race, but I ran wide enough to go on to the wet and I just lost control of the car, went straight and lost the fight for the victory.
'In the end second is a great result for the team. Many points.'
Perez has now scored more points than he managed in his rookie year last season, and the team have 30 overall, just 14 behind their total achievement in 2011.
Relief: Alonso celebrates with his Ferrari team after a welcome win
For Ferrari, the result will lift them out of the doldrums, yet Alonso maintains the win 'changes nothing' given the relative uncompetitiveness of their car.
'The win is a big surprise because we were not competitive in Australia, nor here,' said the Spaniard.
'We are in a position we don't want, fighting to get into Q3 and then fighting to score some points.
'We want to fight for poles, victories, because after the first two races of the championship we find ourselves off the pace.'
Lewis Hamilton had to again settle for third from pole and trails Alonso in the championship by five points.
On this occasion, after being far from happy with third a week ago in his McLaren, the tune had changed as he said: 'We can be satisfied.
Podium place: Lewis Hamilton had to settle for third place in Malaysia
'We would have liked more points, but I guess I can't complain. I'm on the podium for 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 front-wing change shortly after the restart.
Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel also missed out on points as he was 11th after his own clash with Karthikeyan late on that led to a left-rear puncture.
Other notable achievements saw Bruno Senna finish a career-high sixth, giving Williams eight points, three more than they scored in the whole of last season, whilst Force India's Paul di Resta was seventh.