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Sergio Perez silenced his detractors at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday with a sixth place, but gained one more critic in teammate Jenson Button after the pair was involved in an intense battle during the race
On lap 31, the McLaren duo were fighting for position when Perez’s front wing made contact with Button’s right-rear tyre raising concerns for the 2009 world champion.
"Calm him down," Button complained over the radio but two laps later the battle intensified as the pair touched again.
"He's moving across on me and wheel-banging. Come on!” an annoyed Button said.
Perez was only on one lap older tyres than Button which meant that the two McLaren drivers were running on par at the time.
"Can we pit as soon as possible?" Button asked suggesting that he was losing plenty of time in the battle.
In the final stint, Button was struggling on his tyres which allowed Perez through, this time a bit more comfortably.
At the end of the race, Perez’s race engineer told him that he had answered his critics, to which the driver replied, "Now they can shut up!"
Perez had made the worst start for a McLaren rookie in 20 years after the results in his first three races this season but with the eight points in Bahrain, it seemed that the team’s call to toughen up had certainly worked.
Button, meanwhile, scored just a single point, unhappy with the incidents with his teammate, particularly since he used up his tyres fending off what he described as an unusually tough Perez.
"I was vocal on the radio and emotions were running high but I will say exactly what I said then... Checo was too aggressive," Button told the Sky Sports F1 website. "At 300kph you don't expect your teammate to come alongside and bang wheels with you... and I'm probably not the only one feels like that."
Although team principal Martin Whitmarsh was happy with the result, he echoed Button's remarks saying "you don't hit your teammate."
"That was over the limit," said Whitmarsh who had no qualms in his drivers racing although not in such nail-bitingly close proximity.
Perez admitted later that he was too aggressive confessing that it got a "little too risky" with Button.
"But the team never came on the radio to tell us to stop racing. There were no team orders," said the combative Perez. “There was a lot of adrenaline from both of us, and Jenson is always a very strong racer, but hopefully we’ll help each other a little more in the future."