Red Bull drivers row as Max Verstappen refuses team order to let Sergio Perez past in Sao Paulo GP
Sergio Perez told his team “this shows who he really is” after his hopes of finishing second in the drivers’ championship were hit by Max Verstappen’s actions; watch the final race of the 2022 F1 season live from Abu Dhabi next weekend with all sessions live on Sky Sports F1
Red Bull’s drivers exchanged furious team radio messages at the end of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix after Max Verstappen refused a team instruction to allow Sergio Perez past him on the final lap.
The team were forced to hold clear-the-air talks in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s race as Verstappen declared “I gave my reasons” for refusing to help his team-mate, prompting Perez to fume “this shows who he really is”.
Perez was struggling on medium tyres following a late Safety Car at Interlagos and the team asked him to allow Verstappen through on the condition that he would give the place back if he failed to overtake fifth-placed Fernando Alonso in the closing stages.
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When Verstappen was asked to fulfil that agreement on the final lap he did not respond and when prompted again told his team: “I told you already last summer. You guys don’t ask that again to me, ok? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”
His refusal means Perez’s hopes of finishing second in the drivers’ championship were impacted as he is now level on points with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who finished fourth in Brazil – with just one race remaining.
Perez sarcastically thanked his team over his radio, prompting an apology from team principal Christian Horner and a promise of a post-race debrief.
The Mexican responded: “Yeah, this shows who he really is.”
When asked about the incident by Sky Sports F1 later, Perez initially suggested there may have been a communication breakdown and he appeared surprised when Sky Sports F1 told him that Verstappen actively refused to give back the place.
“I have no idea [what his reasons are],” Perez said. “Maybe you should ask him about it. I’ve nothing to say really.
“After all I have done for him, it is a bit disappointing to be honest.
“I have no idea. I am really surprised.”
Red Bull bosses then called both drivers in for talks and Verstappen emerged to insist he would help Perez to beat Leclerc in next week’s final race in Abu Dhabi if needed.
But he refused to give his reasons for disobeying the team orders, though he insisted he had made his feelings clear to the team.
“We’ve put everything on the table,” he explained to Sky Sports F1.
“I gave my reasons. I’m not going to say why, but I think they understood – and I’ve explained it to them before so it’s not new to me and not new to them.
“But I think it’s more important as a team now that we stand together, all together and importantly we move forward.
“We go to Abu Dhabi. Of course, we want to win the race but if there’s a chance to help Checo I will. That’s why it was important we had this meeting now.
“I understand why he is disappointed, but they also have to understand why I did it and I gave them the reasons why.”
When asked if the decision was related to an incident in Monaco earlier this year – when Perez was ahead of his team-mate in qualifying and crashed to trigger a red flag which denied Verstappen the chance to beat his time – the Dutchman refused to comment.
“You can decide that. I’m not going to say,” he said.
“I gave my reasons why I didn’t do it and I think everyone understood it. It was good that we finally all sat together and I think we are professional enough to move forwards.
“I guess [everyone is fine with it]. We are not babies.”
Red Bull chief Horner also refused to disclose Verstappen’s reasons following the post-race debrief, but insisted securing second place in the drivers’ championship is now the team’s priority.
“We go into Abu Dhabi as a team to do the very best we can for Checo to achieve that second place and Max will fully support that,” he told Sky Sports F1.
“I’m not going to go into what we discussed behind closed doors. The drivers have discussed it, they have shaken hands and we are absolutely focused on that next race.”
He also rejected the suggestion that world champion Verstappen is acting as if he is bigger than the team.
“We work as a team, we race as a team and our objective and our priority is to see if we can get Checo to finish runner-up in the championship.
“It is something we have never achieved as a team before and Max has given his commitment that we will be doing the best we can in Abu Dhabi to achieve that.
“It is a straight fight between Checo and Charles and if Max can help in any way, he will do.”
However, Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok feels the move was a “short-sighted” one from Verstappen, who benefitted from Perez holding up Lewis Hamilton in their title-deciding showdown in Abu Dhabi last year.
“Honestly, I don’t understand it,” Chandhok said. “He’s won the world championship. I think it’s a little bit short-sighted because he might need Checo’s help next year in the world championship battle.
“He needed him last year in Abu Dhabi and he’s needed him at other times this year.
“I go back to someone like Ayrton Senna. He gave up a win in Japan 1991 to his team-mate because he knew he wanted Gerhard Berger on side and I think that’s a slightly short-sighted move there.
“I think that was a racing driver thinking about himself and putting a stake in the ground of ‘listen, I am the number one driver in this team’.
“At that moment, as the driver in the cockpit, he’s not thinking about all those other factors so this was very much about him establishing himself as the number one driver in that team.”