The new Formula One season could have barely started better for Red Bull Racing. Their 1-2 finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are their first such back to back finishes since 2010 at the British and German GP’s.
However, the dynamic between their two drivers whilst not yet Hamilton/Rosberg-esque is heading that way – and fast.
Verstappen furious with Perez
Verstappen was furious with his team mate in Monaco last season when he believed the Mexican driver had deliberately crashed and brought qualifying to an end before he could make his final attempt at pole position.
The uneasy peace between the two Red Bull drivers was tested again in Brazil where Verstappen refused to allow Checo through to claim P6 in his battle with Charles Leclerc for P2 in the championship.
Perez clearly believes the team support Verstappen over him as he showed some suspicion over instructions he received during the closing stages of the Saudi Arabian GP yesterday.
Perez suspicious of team instructions
Max benefitted from a dubious safety car call from the stewards and closed the gap to Checo from around 21 to just 5 seconds following the restart.
But as hard as he tried the double world champion could not close gap to Perez who was given instructions with around 10 laps remaining.
Checo was given Max current lap times and told to run 0.4s slower. Something he questioned immediately.
Clearly Perez was suspicious he was being told to lap slower than his team mate. However, the team were merely suggesting he had a sufficient gap to win the race by lapping 0.4s slower than <Max to the end of the race.
Red Bull refuse to order Max to hold station
Sergio’s lead fell quickly to just over 4 seconds and hew was told to pick up his pace again. However, Checo questioned the wisdom of the teams approach given the reliability issues both cars had lurking.
“We don’t need this” Perez told the team only to receive the quick response he was “free to push”.
Checo clearly understood this to mean the team were not prepared to tell Verstappen to hold station to the end of the GP.
Both Red Bull drivers were agitating over team radio about the fastest lap which they traded several times.
Verstappen ignores team order
The team tried to restrain Verstappen from taking the fastest lap back from Perez telling the Dutch driver, “we not concerned with that [fastest lap].”
Verstappen swiftly replied, “But I am.”
At the same time Perez was being reassured he had the fastest lap and instructed to maintain a steady but race winning pace.
“Two laps from the end, they told me to keep a certain pace, they told me I had the fastest lap and to keep the pace, a certain pace,” Perez told reporters in the post-race press conference.
Perez unhappy with double dealing
Perez was clearly unhappy with the situation were not giving Verstappen the same instructions as to him.
“I though the communication was the same to Max, so it’s something we need to review. Because I certainly got different information.”
Verstappen was chirpy when asked about the situation. “We were first of all free to race and of course we had a target lap time to the end, but you know, there’s a point on the line.”
That point prevented Sergio from holding P1 in the F1 drivers’ championship for the first time ever.
Horner merely muddies the waters
Team boss Christian Horner attempted to diffuse the situation: “Inevitably, as Max said on the radio, the point for the fastest lap meant a great deal to him. And there was no reason for us not to let either he or Checo have a crack at it.”
Clearly Checo felt he had been told not to attempt the fastest lap.
Sergio is clearly suspicious of the team as is clear from his remarks when told to reduce his pace. Perez believes with fair reason that Verstappen will not adhere to the same instructions as was clear when he asked, “Is Max doing the same?”
All is rosy for now in the Red Bull Racing garden after their best ever start to an F1 season. However, there is a latent ‘multi-21’ row brewing between the two drivers as the team seeks to manage their dominant position.
A huge row looming for Red Bull
It could be that Jeddah was just an outlier for Perez who benefitted from his team mates car failure in Q2 that prevented Max from claiming pole position.
Verstappen had been quicker then Perez all weekend and had he started from pole, Perez may have been a distant P2 ‘also ran’.
Either that or Sergio raises his game for the street circuit challenges and come the European road circuit events, Max will reassert his dominance and as he did last season sail off into a distant sunset.
However it plays out, Christian Horner is set to be called upon to adjudicate over some almighty bust ups coming over the horizon between Verstappen and Perez.
READ MORE: Tough to beat Rosberg’s W8 records for Red Bull
"What's the fastest lap?"
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"Yeah but I am…" 👀 pic.twitter.com/yptNtgrnv0
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) March 19, 2023
Somehow I feel sorry for Checo, he is obviously not as fast as Max, and in a perilous position. And that makes him very vulnerable. Good luck woth tjat one VH
They will let down Checo soon I have a strange feeling he will have a DNF with car trouble so that Mad Max can gain an edge over him SHAME!!
Red Bull have no control over Max, 2 scared they might lose him. Checo is in a no win situation(except his bank balance) he cannot trust his team or his team mate