Max Verstappen does not collect loyalty points in Brazil. The Formula 1 world champion fails to support Sergio Perez. Verstappen allegedly has “reasons” for the scandal. Just what kind?
With his ego trip in São Paulo, world champion Max Verstappen even stole the show from Formula 1 premiere winner George Russell. His stubborn show of force with the denied team order shook Red Bull and humiliated his reliable adjutant Sergio Perez.
“It shows who he really is,” said the offended Mexican about the two-time world champion’s solo effort in the penultimate race of the season. Like every Formula 1 driver, Verstappen is primarily an I-AG. However, the Red Bull frontman damaged the internal culture of the racing team by refusing to help Perez. Because from a sporting point of view, it was absolutely nothing for the Dutchman on Sunday. “Of course I’m disappointed after everything I’ve done for him,” said Perez, who was still fighting for second place in the world championship. “I’ve done a lot for him in the past, it’s no secret.”
Verstappen becomes clear on the team radio
Verstappen returned the favor in his own way. In the closing stages of São Paulo, he overtook Perez in order to be able to catch up with Fernando Alonso in the Alpine and Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. Perez was already informed by the Red Bull box that he would get Verstappen’s place back if the plan didn’t work out.
On the last lap of Russell’s first career success in the Mercedes, the time had come. In sixth place, Verstappen was told to let Perez, who was behind him, pass. “I told you last time that you shouldn’t ask me to do that again, okay?” Verstappen etched over the team radio in the last few meters. “Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by them.”
Verstappen is the center of Red Bull’s Formula 1 universe. By 2028 he should lead Sebastian Vettel’s former racing team to success. What is good for Verstappen usually also brings success to the team. His defiant Basta appearance may have been short-sighted. A functioning team also needs predictability.
Rapid crisis meeting
“Of course I understand that ‘Checo’ is disappointed. But I also gave my reasons why I didn’t do it because of something that happened in the past,” said Verstappen, without specifically explaining why he was so resentful be.
A crisis meeting with the embarrassed team boss Christian Horner and the no less embarrassed motorsport consultant Helmut Marko was convened immediately. “We all sat down and talked about it,” said Verstappen before the season finale next Sunday in the desert. “We’re going to Abu Dhabi, they’re level on points and if he needs the help there to finish ahead of Charles, I’ll help him.”
Verstappen’s insight comes late. Maybe even too late. Leclerc and Perez are tied in second with 290 points each. “Max Verstappen is under fire,” wrote the “Daily Mail” in England. The “Kronen Zeitung” diagnosed: “Red Bull’s cracking!”
Horner and Marko did not want to publicly count their star. “The drivers discussed it behind closed doors. Our goal for Abu Dhabi is that ‘Checo’ gets second place. Max will do everything to achieve that,” announced Horner after radioing Perez for Verstappens had excused stubborn drive.
An incident in Monaco earlier this year is considered the likely motive. Perez crashed just before the end of qualifying, robbing Verstappen of a chance for pole position. The race was then won by Perez, with Verstappen third.
Verstappen missed chance
Verstappen could have set an example in an unchallenged situation. A show of leadership and appreciation for Perez being paid for his helping hand. Even an Ayrton Senna showed his appreciation. In 1991, after his third World Championship title, the Brazilian allowed Gerhard Berger to be overtaken on the final lap in order to thank him for his support.
You can go that far, but you don’t have to. It’s enough if you stick to internal team agreements and then swap places again. Just like Lewis Hamilton and his then new Mercedes stable rival Valtteri Bottas did in Hungary in 2017. The fact that the Englishman stuck to the team orders earned him respect and loyalty points from the Finns.
Perez has also made a name for himself as a top adjutant at Red Bull. The 2021 Formula 1 final in Abu Dhabi is a prime example, when the Mexican slowed down Hamilton with his fierce resistance and made a decisive contribution to Verstappen becoming world champion for the first time. “You are an absolute animal,” the Dutchman praised his selfless teammates at the time.