Max Verstappen’s Antics Towards Sergio Perez: An Abuse Of His Status As Red Bull’s Number One Driver?

Red Bull is once again the target of unwarranted criticism after Max Verstappen’s choice to defy a team instruction to assist his teammate Sergio Perez at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

A clash between archrivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton would often be the news dominating most media spaces in the aftermath of a Grand Prix. That, however, is so 2021.

Verstappen’s early clash with his old rival as he attempted to push past him was only a side story to what was happening in Sao Paulo. To some extent, that was also true of George Russell’s first Grand Prix victory and Mercedes’ first win of the current campaign.

The biggest talking point of the race was the altercation between Red Bull teammates Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen after the reigning champion defied a team directive to give up the sixth place to help the Mexican secure second place in the standings.

Has a team that won two championships and was unbeatable ever gotten such terrible publicity? Red Bull has returned to the fray just as the budget cap debate was about to be put to rest for good. However, it’s not with Sky Sports or rival teams this time; instead, they are needlessly battling it out amongst themselves.

Most of the blame must be placed on Verstappen. He already had the championship secured and had received countless on-track favours from diligent number two Perez, so his unwillingness to settle for sixth place was at best childish and at worst extremely spiteful.

If Verstappen had been in the lead, many people wouldn’t have pointed the finger at him, but sixth place? Verstappen, who was born to win, seems unconcerned about placing sixth or seventh.

However, as we now understand, the incident was about much more than finishing sixth; it was retaliation for what Perez is suspected of doing earlier in the season.

According to rumors, Perez crashed during the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session on purpose to ensure he started in front of his stablemate. Even the Dutch media has reported that Perez made this admission to Helmut Marko and Christian Horner.

Verstappen chose not to respond to the questions when pressed. He replied, “I don’t need to say where it was.”

Whether or not it is true, it takes a peculiar mind to seek vengeance over a small placement. And why is the matter being made so public? Verstappen would have been better off simply stating that he did not want to give up his position and leaving it at that, or that he did not get the message.

However, the simmering friction between him and Perez has been exposed as a result of his brutal radio message to engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, in which he set the rules like a team principal rather than a driver. This has caused additional bad press for the team.

Verstappen’s actions are an obvious example of abusing his position of power in the team. Perez has been painted in poor light and despite how unjust it is to the Mexican, who appeared to be broken after the race, he and Perez are too aware that Perez cannot win this fight.

Perez will now have to answer unwelcome questions about his actions and the incident in Monaco. In the title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi last season, he stood up to the much-speedier Hamilton to assist Verstappen to reduce the gap and win the title, and now that man has thrown him under the bus.

Verstappen has been spoiled by Red Bull, maybe to the detriment of the team. That does not augur well for the Austrian-based team going into the title battle, which should be considerably tighter next season.