The 2022 Formula One season saw Red Bull Racing completed their first double championship winning season for 9 years. Yet instead of a victory parade when the titles were clinched the final 3 races were clouded by in team fighting. The vitriol exploded into the public domain in the most visible fashion possible as Max Verstappen scolded his team following the chequered flag in Brazil.
On different tyre strategies Verstappen caught his team mate on fading rubber with a handful of laps to go. Checo was told “do not fight Max” and that were the Dutchman unable to catch and overtake Fernando Alonso ahead the positions would be revered on the last lap of the race.
Red Bull double deal their drivers
Verstappen was told no such thing and rightly believed his fresher tyres and quicker car would see him overtake the Mexican with ease.
However as the final lap began Verstappen’s engineer came on the radio instructing the Red Bull driver, “Max – let Checo through. Let Checo through.”
Verstappen did not respond a few seconds later a more urgent message came across the radio, “Max, let Checo through please.”
Again there was no response.
Remarkable Verstappen public outburst
As the chequered flag fell Verstappen’s engineer asked his driver, “Max what happened?”
Verstappen responded “I told you already last time I need the guys not to ask that again of me, Ok?
“Are we clear about that?”
“I gave my reasons and I stand by it”
The instant paddock speculation was that Verstappen was still angry over Perez crash in final qualifying in Monaco earlier in the season. Then, Sergio had a quicker time than Max on the first Q3 run and appeared to have a strange crash before the tunnel which prevented Verstappen from improving on his grid position of 4th behind Perez and the Ferrari’s.
Horner’s explanation doesn’t ring true
From Verstappen’s very public comments over the radio it is clear the team had prior to Brazil discussed him giving way to his team mate. Clearly when this idea was mooted previously Verstappen had refused to give way then as well as in the Sau Paulo race.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner attempted to quickly quell the growing melodrama following the Interlagos race by claiming the team had failed to discuss the matter properly before the race and hence the confusion.
Yet the reality of Max radio response was he made it patently clear the matter had indeed been suggested to him at an event earlier in the season.
An F1 driver never forgets
It appeared petulant for Verstappen to squabble over whether he or Sergio should finish the Brazilian race in just P6, yet Karun Chandhok agrees this is the midst of a racing driver.
“I still remember a driver who blocked me during a qualifying lap in 2007,” claimed the ex-F1 driver.
As Christian Horner once described Verstappen. “He’s a beast. And never forgets anything.”
Chandhok added he believes there is a complete breakdown in the relationship between Verstappen and Perez and “I think we’ll only find out the true damage done in Brazil – next year – at a moment when Checo is asked to help Max.”
Perez just not good enough
Karun makes the point that Perez should be focusing on “raising his game” rather than debating whether he should be handed a race win in Mexico or a position in Brazil.
“Ultimately Checo has to raise his game. He only out qualified Max 3 times this year – all 3 on street circuits – one of them Monaco perhaps has a bit of an Asterix over it swell.”
During the Sky F1 season review David Croft adds, “There have to be trust issues with Perez. You need to be able to trust your team and as a driver trust your team mate.”
Perez: “There’s an issue of trust”
“Whatever went on in Monaco, and the assumption is there was something about Checo’s crash that wasn’t misfortune.
“If it wasn’t an act of misfortune, there is a trust issue there and in the back of your mind you’re thin king, ‘will they do that again.’”
Croft then claims, “I don’t see how this gets repaired.”
“Even in Abu Dhabi with all the veneer put on the events in Brazil by the team, Max wasn’t exactly helping his team mate out.”
“Red Bull have never had a 1-2 in the drivers championship. Max could’ve hung back a bit, kept Checo in DRS, towed him along to help him in his fight [for P2] with Charles LeClerc. He didn’t do it.”
Ricciardo recruitment to remind Perez of his place
Speculation has grown over Sergio Perez future since Red Bull racing announced the return of Daniel Ricciardo as the third driver for the team.
Ricciardo and Verstaoppen are known to be firm friends and Sky’s anchor Simon Lzenby posits, “I wonder how much of this has been steered by Verstappen thinking ‘I want my number one ally next to me at some point in the future’”
The implication is clear. Daniel Ricciardo has gone to Red Bull specifically because he believes at some point even by 2024 at the latest that he will be back in the car alongside Verstappen.
Perez finished if he refuses a team order
Of course should the moment come in 2023 where Sergio is asked to help out Max and refuses team orders as Chandhok hypothecates, the fallout for the Mexican will be immense.
Perez’s contract will bind him to team orders whereas Verstappen’s clearly does not and with Ricciardo waiting in the wings Sergio is walking a tight line as Red Bull may believe they have a better replacement for him.
Chandhok concludes, “I think Daniel vs Checo is an interesting fight for the 2024 seat but how do they evaluate Daniel?”
“They could put him in the simulator, but it’s not the same as driving the real car. So will they give him a go in a test somewhere? That’s what I’d like to see.”
To: Max Verstappen
From: Charles Leclerc
A very special edition of F1 22 🎮😆
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— Formula 1 (@F1) December 20, 2022