Sergio Perez endured a Japanese Grand Prix to forget after picking up two five-second penalties before retiring on Lap 17.
The second of those five-second penalties caused by a clumsy incident with Kevin Magnussen at Turn 11 triggered a bizarre moment where Perez was sent back into the race 26 laps down.
Perez wasn’t sent out to get the fastest lap or to become shotgun for teammate runaway race leader Max Verstappen but rather to avoid having his workload doubled for the Qatar GP in a fortnight.
So why did Red Bull send Perez back out?
Regulation loophole saves Perez grid penalty
With the constructors championship seemingly secured, Red Bull used a loophole in the regulations to help Perez avoid a penalty.
Under article 54.3 of the FIA’s regulations, stewards may impose a grid penalty on a driver if they cannot serve their penalty during the race.
To avoid carrying over a grid penalty to the Qatar GP, Red Bull, as a precaution, waited until Verstappen had completed his second pitstop on Lap 38 before sending Perez back out on track.
Once his penalty was served and the danger of a grid penalty was averted, Perez returned to the pits and retired for a second time, picking up Red Bull’s first retirement of 2023.
Is it allowed?
By definition, yes, as it’s allowed in the regulations, and there have been previous instances where drivers have returned to the race after initially retiring.
In the rain-disrupted 2021 Belgian GP, Perez crashed on the sighting lap with the damage caused by the shunt at Les Combes initially unrepairable in time for the start.
However, with a long red flag following due to the awful weather conditions, the stewards allowed Perez to rejoin the race after Red Bull repaired his car during the stoppage.
Once racing technically resumed, Perez rejoined the race for the second formation lap and was classified 19th after Lance Stroll was given a 10-second time penalty for a rear wing change during the red flag.