Why Sergio Pérez needs to keep it clean on the track until September

Sergio Pérez has managed a pair of second-place finishes to begin the 2024 Formula 1 season, perhaps easing the pressure he faces to keep his seat at Red Bull beyond the current season.

However, the driver is now facing a different kind of pressure thanks to an incident that occurred in Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

On just the seventh lap of Saturday night’s race, Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll clipped an inside wall with his front left tire, which sent him careening into the barrier on the opposite side of the track. The hard shunt ended Stroll’s day, and brought out an early safety car.

A number of drivers made their way down pit lane to take advantage of the safety car, including Pérez, who pitted as his team fitted a set of hard tires to last the rest of the race. However, when Pérez exited the pits, he dipped in front of Fernando Alonso, as Aston Martin’s other driver was making his way into the pits:

Pérez was then cited for an “unsafe release,” and moments later the stewards handed down a five-second penalty for the Red Bull driver.

That did not matter in the final race classification, as Pérez finished well enough ahead of Charles Leclerc that the five additional seconds did not drop him down to P3. But a decision made by the race stewards following the race could have implications for Pérez in the future. The stewards issued a report following the race regarding his “unsafe release.”

In the report, the stewards noted that they they reviewed video, radio and in-car video to determine that Pérez was “released from a pit stop in an unsafe manner.” But that was not their only finding, as they also noted that Alonso had to take “evasive action to avoid a collision,” and that Pérez left the pits “when there was a red light … indicating that it should not go out of the pit box.”

As a result, the stewards also imposed one penalty point on his Super License.

THere is where things get tricky.

Under F1 rules and FIA regulations, penalty points stay on a driver’s Super License for a period of one calendar year. After a year, penalty points are removed from the driver’s Super License. A driver who receives 12 penalty points in a calendar year faces a one-race suspension.

Pérez entered the season with seven points already on his Super License, the most among the 20 F1 drivers. All seven of those points were handed down late last season, and he will not see the first point come off his license until September. In the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix, held on September 17, he received one penalty point for causing a collision with Alexander Albon. That point will expire on September 17, 2024.

Pérez then was hit with four penalty points the following week, in the Japanese Grand Prix. He was given two penalty points for overtaking Alonso under safety car conditions, and two additional points for causing a collision with Kevin Magnussen. Those four points will come off his Super License on September 24, 2024.

Two more points will come off his Super License on November 26 of this year. In last year’s season finale, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Pérez was given two more penalty points for causing a collision with Lando Norris.

With eight points on his Super License, Pérez has little margin for error until September. A few more incidents like Saturday’s unsafe release in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix could see the Red Bull driver hit with a one-race ban.

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