It’s a rare and significant situation for a Formula 1 driver to deliberately undermine his team mate and challenge his team, as Max Verstappen did in the Brazilian Grand Prix, just to prove a point.
Verstappen effectively got his revenge on Sergio Perez, for an incident that happened months ago, when he refused an order from Red Bull to let him through late to help Perez finish second in the championship.
Although the stakes are nowhere near as high as the ‘Multi 21’ controversy between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in 2013, there were echoes of that infamous incident when Verstappen snubbed Red Bull command.
Unlike Vettel’s decision against Webber in Malaysia nine years ago, it wasn’t to win a Grand Prix. But it was another case of Red Bull’s main driver going rogue – and when Verstappen revealed after the race that it was revenge for a previous incident, the full picture became clear. And it’s quite sensational.
From what Verstappen said after the race, he considers him and Perez even. Verstappen says if Perez needs his help in Abu Dhabi next weekend, then Verstappen will oblige. Red Bull has also made it clear that it expects this.
Case closed? Well, let’s first see if Verstappen actually helps if needed.
But beyond that, there’s an unnecessary threat to an otherwise highly effective Red Bull dynamic as a result.
It was a short-sighted move from Verstappen as it’s clear Perez has had his confidence in the team and his team-mate shaken.
When The Race asked him afterwards if we should expect it to be different in Abu Dhabi, Perez said that would be the case not only for the final but also in the future.
“We will always put the team ahead of our interests,” Perez said.
It is important for you to feel that you have an equal chance in the team, we suggested.
“Yes, definitely,” he replied. “Otherwise it makes no sense to me.”
Now Verstappen doesn’t necessarily have to worry about whether Perez feels valued at Red Bull.
But he must keep in mind that it would be beneficial for him to have his teammate on his side.
Other champions have already recognized the need to foster harmony, whether it’s giving up wins like Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell did for their support act teammates or simply giving back. a place like Lewis Hamilton did for Valtteri Bottas in Hungary in 2017. .
Even Nico Rosberg, at the height of his rivalry with Hamilton at Mercedes, pulled aside in the 2016 Monaco Grand Prix when it meant a direct blow to his own championship lead – because it was the best thing for Mercedes. .
The fact is, there are several examples in history – recent and older – of drivers setting aside self-interest to help with the big picture. Verstappen’s individualistic act will not be considered one of them.
He will get away with it in the sense that he is the center of the Red Bull universe and generally what is good for him is good for the team.
But Verstappen will need help from Perez from time to time. Just think of the crucial role Perez played in Abu Dhabi last year holding off Verstappen’s title rival Lewis Hamilton. And Verstappen needs to know he can count on Perez when the time comes.
For now, Perez is impeccably buying team play. He knows his role, he contributed to an environment that gets the best out of Verstappen and he always followed team orders even when he disagreed with them.
But in his own words, if he thinks it makes no sense for him to be in a team where he risks being undermined even when the assist costs Verstappen nothing, then why would he continue? to adhere to this philosophy? This is the risk that Verstappen unnecessarily created.
Adhering to the team order would have shown Perez, Red Bull and the rest of the world that Verstappen can play the team game too.
And it would have cost Verstappen so little, for whom a sixth or seventh place makes no difference given that he finished the world championship weeks ago and broke the record for most wins in one. season.
It would have been such a cheap way to curry favor. Verstappen traded that just to prove a point, in a team that’s already his, to a teammate who’s already submitted.
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