Sergio Perez has been criticised for lashing out at Max Verstappen after the reigning double world champion ignored team orders and refused to let the Mexican through on the final lap at Interlagos. Dutch Grand Prix boss Jan Lammers claimed that Perez’s post-race comments were ‘below the belt’ before launching a dig at the four-time Grand Prix winner.
Red Bull lacked pace in Brazil, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton notching a famous one-two for Mercedes and the Ferrari’s taking the chequered flag just behind. Late on, Perez let Verstappen through under team orders to try and chase down Fernando Alonso in fifth, but the Dutchman ran out of time.
In the final few corners, Verstappen was asked to return the position back to Perez after failing to close the gap on Alonso. Instead, he stayed quiet and powered through the finish line, immediately explaining: “I told you already last summer, guys. Don’t ask that again to me, okay? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”
Many were shocked by the 24-year-old’s conduct, given that he has nothing to fight for and Perez is in a tight battle for second in the Drivers’ Championship. The Mexican was clearly annoyed by the decision, given that his unselfish work has undoubtedly contributed to Verstappen’s success over the past two years.
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When Red Bull boss Christian Horner apologised to Perez over the team radio, he responded: “It shows who [Verstappen] really is.” Boldly, he later claimed that Verstappen’s championships were his doing. “I don’t understand what his reaction was,” he said. “If he has two championships, it is thanks to me.”
Lammers, who raced for the likes of ATS and Shadow during his own F1 career, didn’t take kindly to Perez’s ‘below the belt’ comments and appeared to mock the 32-year-old by suggesting that he would have jumped at the chance to sign a Red Bull extension, as he did earlier this year, even if it meant sacrificing second in the Championship.
“Perez says Verstappen owes his two titles to him, but he also said he has now seen Verstappen’s true nature which I think is quite personal,” he explained, as per PlanetF1. “It’s a personal insult to Max’s character, which was unnecessary and below the belt. Because if Red Bull had demanded in his contract that he finish third, I think he would have signed with a very thick marker.”
With Verstappen away and clear, every point remains crucial for Perez in his bid to nail down second in the standings. His P7 in Brazil, combined with Charles Leclerc’s impressive comeback to finish in fourth, has left the pair finely-poised on 290 points apiece with just one Grand Prix remaining this season.
After a tense fall-out, Perez claimed that the team had managed to resolve their differences, at least publicly, in a carefully-worded social media statement. “What a day yesterday,” he wrote on Monday.
“A podium for sure but lack of pace was complicated by the SC [Safety Car]. Now let’s focus on Abu Dhabi. With Max and the team, everything was discussed yesterday and will be kept internally, this is behind us, and we will continue to work as the great team we have been so far.”