Max Verstappen has been accused of “petulance” over revelations his explosive radio message at the Brazilian Grand Prix was months in the making.
The world champion driver is heading into this weekend’s series finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix looking more Machiavellian than ever.
Despite his incredible skills and success with Red Bull, the Dutch driver has always been a divisive character.
He further cemented his reputation as a cold, unlikeable figure on Monday morning in Sao Paulo when he openly rejected team orders to let teammate Sergio Perez pass on the final lap.
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Verstappen refused and crossed ahead of his teammate, finishing sixth.
Perez is locked in a tense battle with Ferrari’s Leclerc for second in the drivers standings, all tied up on 290 points, and the added points would have been a big boost. A frosty exchange unfolded after the race with Verstappen providing a blunt response for holding his spot.
“Max, let Checo through please… Max, what happened?” Christian Horner said over the radio.
Verstappen responded: “I told you already last time, you guys don’t ask that again to me, OK? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”
After crossing the line, Perez had a simple response to Verstappen failing to comply: “It shows who he really is”.
As he made his way into the paddock Perez was even more dumbfounded and didn’t hide his anger at his teammates’ decision making.
“I don’t understand why he didn’t give me the position, even with everything I have done for him. If he has two titles, it’s because of my help.” Perez said.
Red Bull kingpin Helmut Marko said the team addressed the situation after the race and it was understood that the team’s goal for the final Grand Prix of the season would be ensuring Perez finishes second.
Red Bull has never achieved a 1-2 in the drivers’ championship — making it even more difficult to understand Verstappen’s refusal.
However, a bombshell report has now emerged that Verstappen’s snub was partly motivated by a desire to get revenge on Perez over their Monaco Grand Prix falling out.
Verstappen declined to explain his motives, but reports in the Netherlands suggested it had been “payback” for Perez’s alleged decision to crash deliberately during qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix, ending the session and spoiling his teammate’s run. Perez took third place on the grid ahead of Verstappen and won the race.
A journalist from the respected Amsterdam-based De Telegraaf, the Netherlands’ biggest-selling daily, reported Perez confirmed to team officials that he had crashed on purpose after Monaco.
Reporter Erik van Haren also posted on Twitter supporting comments made by pundit Tom Coronel on ViaPlay, which broadcasts F1 in the Netherlands, alleging Perez had admitted he crashed deliberately in Monaco to Horner and team consultant Helmut Marko. “Max Verstappen has not forgotten that,” he was quoted saying.
Verstappen’s father Jos wrote an online column at the time, venting his frustrations that the team’s pit stop strategy in Monaco also favoured Perez because the Mexican had been the faster qualifier.
The team and its superstar driver have both come under fire over the public argument.
F1 commentator Will Buxton blasted Verstappen for his actions.
“If this relates to Monaco, the team should have dealt with this by now,” he posted on Twitter.
“It should have been discussed and resolved. Verstappen should be long past it. And given how the season played out his sole focus should be on the team game.
“Red Bull has never had a 1-2 in the drivers championship. That’s now their stated aim.
“His refusal to help them in that desire yesterday showed petulance and a sad and selfish short sighted spitefulness. He’s not the complete racer yet. Nor the talisman they need. Much to learn.
“And while Max is every bit a deserving two time champion he showed today he has much to learn about what it is to be a team leader. For everything Checo has done to help his cause, today’s result means nothing to Max in the wider view. Disrespected his teammate and his team.”
Former world champion Jenson Button said it was a public relations disaster that the team could have handled much better. He said Verstappen’s radio response “doesn’t come across well”.
“Max could have come out of this so well, the world champion letting his teammate past so he can fight for second in the championship,” Button told Sky Sports.
“You’ve got to ask Red Bull, if they have discussed this beforehand as Max said then why are they asking him to do it in the race?
“It feels like they haven’t discussed it properly before the race weekend as a team and that seems like a bigger issue, it seems Red Bull have put themselves in this situation which definitely is negative marketing.
“It’s a real shame because like I say it could have been a perfect end to the race. The mistake in the early part of the race with Lewis was an incident we didn’t want to see, but to come out and say ‘here you go Checo, here’s a couple of points and now you’re second in the championship, we’re going to finish first and second’, it’s awesome.
“But that story is not the story we have.”
Verstappen’s frustrating day also saw him struggle with tyre degradation and was eventually docked two points from his FIA super license as a result of contact he made with Lewis Hamilton.