Verstappen’s Refusal to Give Sergio Pérez His Place May Return to Bite Him
Having a grudge is never a nice look, and it certainly takes the glitter of victory away from a two-time
Having a grudge is never a nice look, and it certainly takes the glitter of victory away from a two-time Formula One world champion. At the So Paulo Grand Prix, Max Verstappen may have believed he was making a point when he refused to let teammate Sergio Pérez take his place. However, his actions came across as those of an irritable child who was so self-absorbed that he could not see how pointless they were or the potential harm they could do to himself in the future.
George Russell won his maiden Formula One race at Interlagos, marking Mercedes’ lone victory thus far this season. Verstappen and Pérez, drivers for Red Bull, were dealing with a far more turbulent Sunday afternoon in his aftermath. Verstappen’s chance of winning was gone after a collision with Lewis Hamilton, but after advancing through the field, he was in sixth place ahead of Pérez.
Verstappen and Red Bull have long since won the championships for drivers and manufacturers. Still, the Mexican is in a close race for second place with Charles Leclerc of Ferrari. With a car that has dominated both Ferrari and Mercedes, Red Bull, for all their success, has never achieved a one-two finish in the drivers’ standings. This year, they genuinely want to do it.
The world champion was dutifully instructed to make room for Pérez so that he could take the extra two points and pass Leclerc before the decisive round in Abu Dhabi the following week. Verstappen already holds the championship; giving it up would have meant giving up a win for a pointless sixth that only Pérez and Red Bull would have had any bearing on. The driver, who has been widely praised for how much he has grown in recent years, was having none of it.
He has a crew created around him and a car that has been modified to fit his driving style (as opposed to how Pérez would prefer it). Christian Horner, the head of the Red Bull team, was prompted to apologize to Pérez over the team radio, and the Mexican’s response was scathing. He remarked, “It shows who he really is.
The issue is thought to have started with this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, where Pérez wrecked during qualifying, denying Verstappen the opportunity to claim the pole. Pérez went on to win, and there have been unconfirmed rumors that he has subsequently claimed he wrecked on purpose. It reportedly irked Verstappen so intensely that he has since refused to let it go.
After the race in Brazil, he declined to elaborate on his motivations. Red Bull, which immediately pulled its drivers inside their motor home to settle the matter, did not provide any information beyond saying that the drivers had spoken to one another and the issue had been resolved.
When questioned about Monaco’s influence on his choice, Verstappen grinned and said, “I’ll let you work it out yourselves.” So, assuming it was Monaco, it has been 15 races since then. Since then, Verstappen has won 10 races to claim the championship. Pérez had obediently pulled aside to allow Verstappen to pass twice at the meeting in Spain prior to Monaco, much to his own detriment. Verstappen seemed to have been unable to let it go, though.