The 2022 Formula One season saw the usual flash points during the course of the 22 race calendar. Ferrari incompetence and infighting finally led to an agreed parting of the ways between team boss Mattia Binotto and the Maranello outfit. Red. Bull were accused of “cheating” for breaching the newly implemented F1 cost cap and Verstappen and Perez fell out towards the end of the year following a request from the Mexican driver to be ‘helped’ to win his home grand prix.
During the Sau Paulo GP, Verstappen on much fresher rubber was catching Perez with a handful of laps remaining. Perez was told “do not fight Max” and that if Verstappen failed to overtake the next car up the road – Fernando Alonso – the positions between the Red Bull drivers would be reversed on the final lap.
Verstappen kept in the dark
At the time Verstappen was not informed of the promise made to Sergio.
On the last lap Verstappen’s engineer asked him to allow Perez through only to receive a tirade of abuse from the double world champion.
Some F1 observers believed Verstappen’s refusal to obey team orders related to the Mexican’s request at the Mexican GP for ‘help’ from his team mate to clock up a home race win. Verstappen’s blunt response to this was “there will be no presents.”
However, experienced F1 commentator Martin Brundle called Verstappen’s ‘grudge’ in Brazil to pre-exist the Mexican GP.
Perez deliberate crash
During final qualifying in Monaco the drivers had completed their first of two runs and Perez was ahead of team mate Max Verstappen. Then on the final run to set the grid for Sunday, Sergio had a somewhat mysterious engine blip while cornering Portier before entering the tunnel.
Perez hit the barrier and collected Carlos Sainz which immediately saw the end of the session. Verstappen was visibly furious at the time as TV pictures showed Helmut Marko trying to console the Dutchman who pushed his mentor away.
The clue to the exact reason Verstappen refused Perez to pass him in Brazil lies in his response to his engineer.
“I told you already last summer, guys, don’t ask that again to me. Okay? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons, and I stand by it.”
Verstappen’s response reveals exact dispute
This of course brings the Monaco conspiracy theory to the fore particularly when the points difference going into that weekend was just 25 in favour of Verstappen. Perez was desperate to close that gap be beating Max in Monaco regardless of where the pair finished relative to the Ferrari’s.
Dutch journalist Erik van Haren claims that Perez admitted to Horner and Helmut Marko that he crashed on purpose in Monaco. His views are based on comments made by dutch racing driver Tom Coronel who is believed to be close to Helmut Marko.
“It is correct what Tom Coronel just said at ViaPlay. Perez deliberately crashed in qualifying in Monaco and later admitted it to Helmut Marko and Christian Horner. Max Verstappen has not forgotten that,”
Perez admits deliberate crash
Red Bull refused to discuss in public the reason for Verstappen’s refusal of team orders and so for now the curtain has been drawn across the tensions between Sergio and Max. Though F1 history tells us when team mates fall out at this level, the relationship in the garage is never the same.
Damon Hill speculated at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi that Nico Hülkenberg had been recruited by Red Bull as their “third” driver as a back up should the Perez/Verstappen relationship become untenable.
“Let’s say the toys go out the pram and there’s some sort of fall out there, Daniel Ricciardo could be in prime position” to drive for Red Bull racing once again.
Austin ➡️ Mexico City
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— Formula 1 (@F1) December 1, 2022