The latest Red Bull Racing drama began in the run up to the Mexican GP. Sergio Perez gave an interview to Sky filmed inside the baseball stadium section of the circuit. Perez made a statement which appeared startling at the time and with hindsight naive and demonstrated weakness.
“Nothing is better than winning a Grand Prix in your own country,” said Perez.
“I experienced in Zandvoort what that brings. I want to experience that too, but it won’t be easy. The pressure is huge and the crowd almost demands that you win. But Max will surely try to help me (win) if the opportunity presents itself. I have no doubt he will support me.”
Perez dispute began in Mexico
This was presumably a calculated move by Perez to get the team onside asking Max to assist his team mate.
However, Verstappen’s response was short, sharp and not so sweet.
“No chance,” retorted the double world champion.
When asked in the media pen if he could ‘give Perez something’ in Mexico, Verstappen said: “Well, he knows what he has to do to finish a second, he has to finish ahead of Charles.
“As a team, we always try to be first and second and as a driver, I want to win more races.
“I still want to win the races, so I’m here to do the best I can. It’s a bit more relaxing, but I know that once I sit in the car I always want the best.”
Sergio showed weakness asking for help
However, Ernest Knoors – an ex-Ferrari engineer – is critical of Perez for asking for help. Knoors suggested Perez should just be “fast enough” to have secured the second place in the drivers’ championship ahead of LeClerc.
Verstappen had indicated he would help his team mate if he could, yet given Max led most of the race, there was little he could do to help.
With Perez in P2 on lap 29 the Mexican complained over team radio that he was being “held up” by his team mate. Yet it appeared a fairly transparent attempt to engage Red Bull in a team orders debate.
Knoors told Motorsport.com: “To be fair, he was of course not held up, because he was always at least two seconds behind, but I think it was Sergio’s way of seeing if he can get something done with his team that helps him with the strategy.”
Perez needed to be faster
LeClerc eventually reigned in Perez as Verstappen disappeared out of sight and the Monegasque secured P2 in the Drivers’ Championship by just one point.
Red Bull had asked Verstappen to let Perez through on the last lap of the Sau Paulo GP. Yet even had Max handed Sergio those 2 points his poor performance in Abu Dhabi meant it would have made no difference.
“If you want to finish second in the championship,” adds Knoors, “I think you have to make sure you’re fast enough to control the situation,” he explained. “I think it’s a bit of a weakness to enlist the help of your team-mate.”
Impact of Ricciardo signing
Knoors also commented on Red Bull’s recruitment of Riccciardo.“If you look at it from the point of view of the Red Bull management, I even think it could be interesting to have a driver who they can use as pressure if things go very wrong in the future,” he said.
“I don’t want to say that’s why they’re doing it, but I think it’s something that plays into it.
“And if it’s not consciously involved from the management, then maybe it will be in the back of Sergio’s mind.”
Whether Perez has permanently soured the relationship with his team mate is yet to be seen. However, with the team signing Daniel Ricciardo as their third driver yesterday, Perez will know his negotiating hand has been even further weakened.
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 21, 2022