Sergio Perez is the ultimate teammate, with the recently nicknamed Mexican ‘Minister of Defence’ going above and beyond during his two years with Red Bull to help Max Verstappen to two drivers’ championships.
Verstappen on the other hand seems unwilling to repay the favour, despite calling Perez a ‘legend’ and an ‘animal’ for his heroics in Abu Dhabi last year that were key to his victory over Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman was repeatedly asked over the team radio to allow Perez to pass in on the final lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, as the Mexican hunts for second place in the drivers’ championship, which Verstappen won himself back in Suzuka.
The 25-year-old refused to swap positions with his teammate, reminding the team that they know his reasons for not helping Perez, which it is rumoured relate back to Monaco where Perez caused a suspicious red flag to secure pole position, at a circuit where track position is key.
Former F1 driver turned analyst Jolyon Palmer has agreed that Perez’s actions in Monaco seemed ‘fishy’, but still remains confused by Verstappen’s decision making in Sao Paulo.
“Red Bull did ask Max to give way to Checo, and they actually repeated that request over and over again as they realised it was going to be ignored,” said Palmer.
“Red Bull weren’t in such a great position – sixth and seventh on a Sunday is peanuts for this year’s drivers’ and constructors’ champions, yet for Perez the extra two points would have been worth a great deal.
“Verstappen nonetheless ignored the orders and proceeded to take his third worst finish of the season. For a man who was won more races in 2022 than any driver in history over a single campaign, and has the championship sewn up, this seemed like an odd decision.”
The aftermath of Verstappen’s decision has caused a rift in the Red Bull camp, with Perez firing digs at the Dutchman and suggesting that the incident “shows who he really is”.
Even if the two-time world champion does have valid reasons to be annoyed at Perez, which his reaction suggests he does, Palmer has suggested that Verstappen needs to learn to pick his battles, with this incident only reflecting badly on him.
“The Dutchman has maintained that he has his reasons for not complying with the team, but surely as a driver you have to choose your battle and decide when it’s better to swallow your pride and think of the bigger picture.”
Verstappen told reporters after the race that he would not hesitate to help Perez if he is needed in Abu Dhabi, but the truth in this statement will only be revealed when F1 heads to the Yas Marina circuit for the season finale.