Sergio Perez said his first corner crash turned his home Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday into the saddest experience of his career.
The Red Bull driver, who enjoyed passionate home support, collided with Charles Leclerc of Ferrari as he challenged for the lead by drawing alongside him and his Red Bull team-mate world champion Max Verstappen.
But three into two would not go, he said, after bouncing off into a run-off area from which he recovered, limped to the pits and retired.
“I’ve had some really sad moments in my career,” he said. “And certainly this is the saddest one because of the end result, but at the end of the day it’s just racing.”
The incident not only ended Perez’s race, after he made a good start from fifth on the grid, but also damaged Leclerc’s Ferrari, leaving him with a damaged front wing.
He continued, but he was unable to resist seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes and finished third behind him as Verstappen sped to a record 16th win of the season and 51st of his career.
Perez was adamant that he had to take the risk of fighting to win in front of his fans in a big crowd at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
“To be honest, I felt that I would have let them down more if I didn’t go for it… I saw the gap and I went for it,” he said. “I decided to take a risk. I knew it was going to be very risky, and I ended up paying the price.”
He added that he would take the same decision again.
The outcome did little to quell speculation about his future with Red Bull after a dismal run that has seen him without a podium in five races since the Italian Grand Prix on September 3.
While Perez flopped again, Hamilton’s haul of points enabled him to close within 20 points in their scrap for second place in the drivers’ championship, a target valued by Red Bull because they have never had a one-two finish in the title race.
Verstappen leads on 491 ahead of Perez on 240 with Hamilton on 220.
And one of the drivers most touted as a possible Red Bull replacement for Perez in 2024, Daniel Ricciardo, confirmed his recovery from injury with a broken hand by finishing seventh, having out-qualified Perez, in his Alpha Tauri.
“You have days like this,” said Perez. “What makes me feel proud is that I gave it all. And that’s it….”
Team boss Christian Horner was sympathetic afterwards. “He had a rocket-ship launch and so much momentum in the first corner that you can’t blame him for going for it and trying to take the lead at his home race.”
Horner added that it was a moment to support Perez and not to criticise.
“He’s got 13 years’ experience in F1 and I think when you’re going through a difficult moment, it’s important to support him. He was having a great weekend until that point.”
He praised Ricciardo for his maturity, experience and pace after a race that the returning Australian described as “the weekend I dreamed of – and I got it”.
His success for Alpha Tauri lifted them to eighth level with Alfa Romeo in the constructors’ championship on 16 points, leaving Haas 10 th and last on 12.
Sabalenka to play in Brisbane
Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.
Elena Rybakina – beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year – will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was already named in the field as she returns to tennis.
“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.
“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”
Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.
“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.
“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”
On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.
Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.
“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.
“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”
Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.
Giro fail to reclaim top La Liga spot
Surprise package Girona failed to return to the top of La Liga on Monday after they were held 1-1 at home by Athletic Bilbao.
Winger Viktor Tsygankov put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after half time but Inaki Williams scored 12 minutes later to claim a point for the away side.
Girona trail league leaders Real Madrid on goal difference after dropping points for just the third time this season, while Athletic climbed to fifth spot.
Athletic had the better of the first half and their best chance fell to Gorka Guruzeta but the striker poked his shot straight at Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Girona had early chances of their own including an Aleix Garcia volley, which he skied over the crossbar, but did not find the rhythm they have found so often this season.
After the break, the hosts broke the deadlock when Tsygankov rifled home.
Williams, who started on the opposite wing from his brother Nico, equalised from a counter-attacking move that started in Athletic’s own box.
The wide man finished smoothly for his sixth league goal of the season as the Basques went looking for their third straight win.
With 10 minutes left, Inaki Williams came close to finding the winner as he cut in from the left but his shot was parried by Gazzaniga.
Inaki Williams was replaced in the final minute of normal time for youngster Adu Ares, but both sides were forced to settle for a point.
On Sunday, Rodrygo sent Real Madrid top with a double in 3-0 win at Cadiz.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are four points clear of fourth-placed Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
PCB announces Pakistan team management for Australia tour
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have announced the Team Management for the upcoming Test tour to Australia, which is scheduled to take place from December 2023 to January 2024. They will be playing three Test matches in Australia.
Former England cricketer Adam Hollioake has been hired as the batting coach. Hollioake played four Tests and 35 ODIs for England. The 52-year-old transitioned into coaching, contributing his expertise to the England Lions team. His coaching abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to join England’s coaching staff for the final two Ashes Tests during the 2021-22 series.
Meanwhile, Simon Grant Helmot will serve as the high performance coach on the tour. Helmot is an Australian cricket coach, who was formerly the coach of the Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League.
Last week, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal were announced as fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches, respectively, for the Pakistan team.
Naveed Akram Cheema (Team manager), Mohammad Hafeez (Director – Pakistan men’s cricket team), Adam Hollioake (batting coach), Simon Grant Helmot (high performance coach), Umar Gul (fast bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Mansoor Rana (assistant team manager), Shahid Aslam (assistant batting coach), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach/Trainer), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Lt Col (Rtd) Akhtar Hussain (security manager), Raza Rashid Kitchlew (media manager), Ammar Ahsan (videographer), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor) and Malang Ali (team masseur).
The Pakistan cricket team will play their first Test match against Australia in Perth from 14 to 18 December, followed by a Test match in Melbourne, from 26 to 30 December. Sydney will host the last game of the tour from 3 to 7 January, 2024.
The squad is set to depart from Lahore on 30 November.
Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
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