Double Formula 1 World Champion Max Verstappen’s actions (or lack thereof) during the closing stages of the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, denying his teammate Sergio Perez two extra points and defying team orders has kicked up a hornet’s nest of criticism.
Much has been written about the incident, mostly Verstappen taking a hammering for his apparent ‘lack of sportsmanship’ and scant respect for Perez, whom the Dutchman once referred to as Red Bull’s Minister of Defence, and has more than once thanked the Mexican veteran for his helping hand during Max’s two F1 title-winning seasons.
With nothing to lose, and instructed over the radio to do so, Verstappen refused to cede the position, citing his reasons. This left the team and Perez perplexed and has somewhat sullied the final race of the season, which should be a celebration of his incredible performance, instead it has turned into a character assassination.
There was an Inside Line planned on the matter, long before this under the title “F1 is not a team sport” which morphed into “Verstappen is right, Red Bull and Perez are wrong” because, after days of pondering, that’s what I concluded. You can read further thoughts on the matter here>>>
I also must put my hand up and admit, when the incident happened, I wrote on our WhatsApp group, where our GP247 scribes, news hounds and advisors hang out: “Max is a c##t!” but since then I proved myself wrong with that initial gut reaction. – Paul Velasco
To get greater input we opened the matter to our TeamTalk crew, and this is what they had to say on the Verstappen-Perez saga:
Kevin Melro: I stand by Max Verstappen
I stand by Max Verstappen’s refusal to concede to Sergio Perez and his team Red Bull. Putting aside the rumoured events of Monaco, a memorable quote from Christian Horner following Checo’s impressive Monaco victory was “Red Bull Racing is not Max Verstappen racing”, yet somehow, somewhere Red Bull Racing has become Sergio Perez racing.
Supersoft and Hypersoft used to be Pirelli’s tyre compound options circa 2018, now those two terms perhaps have a more fitting place within F1 defining the culture of its fans. Maybe this is just a modern case of “whineritis”? In all seriousness, we must toughen up just a little bit, we don’t have to go level 10 toxic masculinity, just appreciate reality for what it is and stop deducing every scenario into the most severe case of outrage.
Did anyone seriously think Max was giving that spot back? In the obvious case of Max, he’s a winner, and unfortunately being a winner means sometimes having to slaughter a rival in front of a viewership not emotionally prepared for its violence.
Perez defining his role in Verstappen’s successes does not translate well when juxtaposed against the optics of his entire team’s energy being harnessed to aid him in securing second place in the Championship despite having a vastly superior car to the rest of the field.
For now, Max has drawn a line in the sand. He now has a track record of openly calling out his naysayers, there have been several open disagreements with his team this year, and it is now clear that he is not interested in the charity of other drivers, including that of his teammate.
Regardless whether his team order refusal was right or wrong, the end result is his position in motorsport and on the race track continues to strengthen, zero tolerance 100% of the time, a proper winner attitude.
Mark Kay: No surprise Red Bull have yet to issue an official rebuttal of Verstappen’s actions
The test of validity to Max Verstappen’s obstinance hinges on the question of whether he had the moral right to do moral wrong.
For this argument to be valid Verstappen’s right to not concede position to Sergio Perez upon request by Red Bull would be a right that his team not interfere with or question his action. It would be his right against enforcement of duty, or conduct, and would be his right that they do not interfere with his own violation of any implied obligations to them.
If Verstappen was to have the right for moral rights to do moral wrong in the manner that this incident occurred, either directly through contractual inclusion or indirectly by inference; the reason would most probably be due to him demanding a degree of autonomy.
To have protected-choice, or a right, to do wrong is viewed by many as an essential requirement for autonomy and for autonomous moral identity.
It hardly seems coincidental at all that Red Bull have not issued a public rebuttal of Verstappen’s actions towards Perez on Sunday, and that Verstappen has not issued any form of apology, and when this is considered together with the forthright and almost business-like comments that he made over the radio when questioned directly after the race ended.
It would be a reasonable conclusion that due to some form of mechanism or agreement with Red Bull, Verstappen has the liberty of the moral right to do moral wrong, in this instance the right to disobey team orders.
Validating Verstappen’s autonomy in not heeding the request to cede position to Perez by this argument implies that what he did was indeed right.
David Terrien: Short-sighted to act the way he did
Right or wrong is an easy answer, for me it was wrong for a simple reason: Max cares about winning and that’s pretty much all.
In his quest of winning future Titles, Max might need support from Checo again as he did in the past and not letting Checo through might affect the support he might need in the future.
He made his point about the Monaco issue and he might be right about it but it is short sighted to act as he did in Brazil.
Max and Checo were very close in performance at the start of the 2022 season but Max has since raised his game and is more than ever a leader at Red Bull.
Making his point about Monaco but still letting Checo through would have been the best political move to kill any possible future internal discussion at Red Bull and get an unarguable support from Checo.
On the opposite he decided to ignore the team orders and attracted blame from most observers and probably from his teammate and some people at Red Bull.
He matured a lot in 2022 but is still having some behaviour inherited from how is father raised him to reach the pinnacle of Motorsport, hence and despite the gain in maturity, he still shows some brutal and selfish moves as if he still needed to prove he deserves his place in top flight. This is to me a lack of anticipation on long term strategy.
Looking at matters from a different angle, and taking away the discussion from the Max/Checo’s specific case, it is very much arguable to see team orders asking to favour drivers that don’t really deserve it and when it is not even related to a Championship win.
At the end of the day, and despite team orders, we have been lucky to see a great race in Brazil and we can only hope for the same type of race for the Abu Dhabi finale round.
Jad Mallak: In one word it was wrong, but…
But understandable, if we don’t want to use the word justifiable, which as I mentioned in my Sao Paulo Takeaways article the other day, makes me feel conflicted about how I look at what Max did.
On the one hand, you cannot expect him to act in a different way, knowing him and how he goes about with his racing. The way he’s wired means that he has to be fastest all the time, the best all the time, and… well selfish.
The fact that he said there was some history with Perez that’s behind this decision will make him even more convinced that what he did is right. We are not privy to what that history is so we cannot judge.
And then let’s not forget that Red Bull is his team, as it was Sebastian Vettel’s team before, and we all remember how the Multi 21 saga went down back then.
However after the amazing season he and Red Bull had, despite their cost cap breach and Dietrich Mateschitz’s passing, he could’ve avoided another controversy, an unneeded one to be honest. He had nothing to lose by giving Perez that position, and it would’ve been a good gesture towards his team as well, but now they have to go through the pains of sorting out this debacle.
And the fact remains that it may happen again, with Perez or any other future teammate he has as long as Red Bull remains his team, simply because he can and his bosses will accommodate that simply because he is the one who delivers the gold. That’s the harsh fact of F1.
This will always stir up reactions and opinions, especially in these days of social media, and many will agree with him, others won’t agree, and as I couldn’t care less about those who spread hate, I care for the other sincere Verstappen fans, who won’t stop being so, but are now a bit disappointed by their favourite driver.