Perez held up Lewis Hamilton enough to take serious time out of the Mercedes, and it helped Verstappen get back in touch with his title rival during the middle part of the race.
Hamilton pulled away in the latter stages before late drama, when a safety car period brought them back together and the race director Michael Masi hurriedly restarted the racing in the final lap, when Verstappen overtook Hamilton to clinch the world championship.
Perez identified the moment he got back in front of Hamilton at Turn 6 of the Yas Marina Circuit as a key part of their battle.
“I am sure that Hamilton himself will understand it very well, I have done everything more than for Max, for my team,” Perez told Motorsport.com. “These are circumstances in which life puts you there and you have to do it for them.
“Obviously, I was in a position where I had not much to lose. It’s not a place that you want to be in but at the same time I will always put my team above anything. It was a gamble because at that point you are just a piece of cake basically when you are after 18, 19 laps on the soft tyres and Lewis was on fresh rubber. Getting him back out of Turn 6 [re-passing Hamilton] was the key to it.
“I’m just happy that it worked out because I could have cost him half a second at the time, but I’m just happy that I cost him a bit longer.”
Perez, who finished fourth in the drivers’ championship behind Verstappen, Hamilton and Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, is set to stay at Red Bull next season.
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