The last race of the season is here. All the championships have been decided. Few accolades remain for which the teams and drivers are competing. Most noticeable is who will finish behind Max Verstappen as the second-best driver. And considering the events of last week’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the best bet would be to say that whichever team, either Red Bull or Ferrari, manages to impose team orders might see their driver finish behind Verstappen. The Red Bull team order drama may not have surprised everyone, but it certainly did anger many sports fans. Even the die-hard Red Bull fan community, who has repeatedly defended Verstappen for various incidents in which he has come out as an aggressive customer, have been left bamboozled by his lack of willingness to play the team game.
Table of Contents
- What happened in Brazilian Grand Prix?
- Why Verstappen refused to acknowledge team orders?
- Verstappen’s response to the media’s questions?
- Verstappen suffered a tirade of Abuse on Social Media.
- There is no room to threat someone’s family in any Sport.
- Red Bull admits Brazil Mistakes but condemns Abuse.
- Sergio Perez says the air is clear between him and Verstappen.
What happened in Brazilian Grand Prix?
After the second safety car in the Brazilian Grand Prix, Sergio Perez was seen struggling on the soft tyres. He couldn’t hold the front runners behind him after he was P2 at one point. One by one, Hamilton, Sainz, Alonso, and Leclerc passed him in the race’s closing stages. A few laps remained, and Verstappen caught up to his teammate after falling behind due to an earlier incident with Hamilton. Perez asked Red Bull to enforce team orders and ask Verstappen not to attack him. Christian Horner said that it would be best to let Verstappen pass and make him attack Alonso and Leclerc ahead. If Verstappen fails to do so, they will swap the position back to help Perez in his bid to finish 2nd in the driver’s table. Perez obliged and didn’t fight max for the position.
When the last few corners of the final lap were remaining, everyone was waiting for Verstappen to give the position back to Perez, but he didn’t do it. Everyone, including the Red Bull team wall, was surprised to see what had just happened. The Red Bull team wall came onto the radio to ask Verstappen what had happened, and his reply was very ambiguous. “I gave my reasons” was the most notable point in his statement to his team and the media after the race.
Why Verstappen refused to acknowledge team orders?
The apparent reason for Verstappen’s refusal to follow Red Bull team orders is still being determined. Max has just passed the statement that he wasn’t aware of any possible scenario of swapping positions before the race; otherwise, he would have done it and has no problem helping out a teammate. The most common theory among sports analysts about Verstappen’s refusal to help Perez may be related to the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix Qualifying incident.
In May, Perez crashed exiting Portier and was collected by Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, causing a red flag and preventing Verstappen from completing his last qualifying lap. Verstappen was asked directly at least twice in Brazil, on TV, and then again with the written media, if this was the past incident in question, and he didn’t deny it.
Now the speculations are that Perez crashed on purpose. While the Dutch media have claimed that Perez admitted within Red Bull what he did, no substantial evidence has been brought forward by anyone else. However, it is believed that Verstappen was sure that Perez crashed on purpose and denied him the shot at the pole. Leclerc got the pole position, and on Sunday, Perez won the race ahead of Verstappen.
Verstappen’s response to the media’s questions?
Verstappen spent most of the Thursday press conference clearing his stance on the incident in Brazil. “To immediately put me down is pretty ridiculous, to be honest,” said Verstappen of the media’s reaction. “Because they don’t know how I work within the team and what the team appreciates about me, all the things I have read are pretty disgusting. I already explained [my feelings] in Mexico and the team understood and agreed.”
“We went to Brazil, and I thought we would race to get the best possible result. We had a bit of a miscommunication on Saturday and Sunday; I had yet to hear anything about a potential swap. It was only coming into that last lap that it was said on the radio, and they should have known my response already from what I said the week before. After that race, we had some good discussions, put everything on the table, and solved everything.”
“In hindsight, we should have had that conversation earlier because I have never been a bad teammate to anyone. I’ve always been very helpful, and the team knows that. I always put the team front because it is a team effort. What we learned is that we need to be more open, and we have to communicate with each other. “After that race, I looked terrible in the media, but they also didn’t have the clear picture… but immediately putting me down is pretty ridiculous, to be honest.”
Since the Brazilian Grand Prix, social media has been buzzing because of Verstappen’s unwillingness to follow Red Bull’s team orders and help his teammate. His teammate has assisted him on several occasions in the 2021 season, played the team game, and helped Verstappen close the gap to his title rival, Lewis Hamilton. The best thing Perez did for Verstappen was close the gap between his teammate and Hamilton from 10 seconds to just 1 second in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.
Thanks to Perez’s efforts, Hamilton could not box while Verstappen did during the safety car period. Verstappen overtook Hamilton on the last lap due to much fresher tyres and became the world champion. The fans felt Verstappen’s actions were a betrayal of loyalty to his teammate, who had put the team’s interests first compared to his own. The fallout of Verstappen’s actions can also be seen on his Instagram account, where he has lost 239,753 followers just this month, undoubtedly because they felt disappointed and angry about his tactics in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
There is no room to threat someone’s family in any Sport.
Speaking to the media, Verstappen commented:” They started attacking my family, threatening my sister, my mum, my girlfriend, my dad, and for me, that goes way too far while you don’t have the facts of what’s going on. For me, that has to stop. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine, but don’t go after my family because that is unacceptable. We move on. Honestly, I have a great relationship with Checo. But I don’t understand when people don’t have the complete picture to immediately start attacking me like that.”
“I hope they understand what was happening one day because it’s just unacceptable behavior of so many people. Also, people in this paddock, not only fans but a lot of people, what they have been writing about me is ridiculous.”
Red Bull admits Brazil Mistakes but condemns Abuse.
Red Bull issued a statement moments after Verstappen presented his case to the media.
“As a team, we made some mistakes in Brazil,” it read. “We had not envisaged the situation that unfolded on the last lap, and we had not agreed on a strategy for such a scenario before the race.
“Regretfully, Max was only informed at the final corner of the request to relinquish his position without all the necessary information being relayed. This put Max, who has always been an open and fair team player, in a compromising situation with little time to react, which was not our intention.”
“The events that followed from a social media point of view are completely unacceptable. The abusive online behavior towards Max, Checo, the team, and their respective families is shocking and saddening. Unfortunately, it is something we as a sport must address with depressing regularity.”
“There is no place for it in racing or society as a whole, and we need to do and be better. This is a sport; we are here to race. Death threats, hate mail, and vitriol towards extended family members is deplorable. We value inclusion and want a safe space for everyone to work in and enjoy our sport. The abuse needs to stop.”
Sergio Perez says the air is clear between him and Verstappen.
Immediately after the race ended in Brazil, Perez’s team radio certainly sounded like a man feeling betrayed. He tried to muster as much composure when talking to the press after the race. But he certainly couldn’t mince all his words when he said he was baffled by Verstappen’s decision not to follow team orders.
However, after talking to his team and Verstappen, Perez certainly looks like he has put the matter behind him. At least for now. Perez said to the media, “We have discussed everything internally. There’s been a lot of speculation on social media and a lot of hate which is not nice to see. We’re just ready to move on as a team. What happened there, we discussed it, and we’re ready to move on as a team.”