Max Verstappen entering Cristiano Ronaldo territory as champ returns to scene of one of the biggest crimes in F1 history
THIS week, Max Verstappen will return to the scene of one of the biggest crimes in F1 history.
And he will do so as the bad guy.
Not because of what happened at the Abu Dhabi GP 12 months ago, when former FIA Race Director Michael Masi fudged the rules which resulted in the Dutchman winning the title.
But because of the petulant and somewhat disgraceful way he defied team orders not to help his teammate, Sergio Perez in São Paulo.
Verstappen, who has already wrapped up the title, was told to swap places with his Red Bull teammate to boost the Mexican’s chances of finishing second in the championship.
Team orders are divisive, but he flatly refused for his reasons while his team boss, Christian Horner, apologised to Perez.
Verstappen said: “I have my reasons for that. I think it was good that we finally just sat together and talked about it and just move forward from here.
“If we go to Abu Dhabi and he needs support, it is not the end of the world. It is all about who finishes ahead anyway.
“If he needs help, I am there. But it is good that we first talked about it now and cleared everything that was there and why I didn’t do it.”
Just 12 months ago, Perez had played his crucial part, to hold up rival Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi GP, assisting Verstappen to his route to glory.
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Verstappen hailed Perez as “a legend” for his part in delaying Hamilton’s romp to a record eighth world title – but the cooperation was not reciprocated in Brazil.
Instead, his defiance leaves their relationship in tatters and creates a huge problem for Horner.
Yes, he has been here before.
Remember the Multi 21 saga in 2013 when Sebastian Vettel ignored orders to hold station and overtook team-mate Mark Webber in Malaysia?
What happened on Sunday, in my opinion, was much worse.
Firstly, unlike in 2013, the title was still up for grabs.
Second, it was the venomousness with which Verstappen delivered his defiance, sending a clear message to the team as to who is boss.
And there is the third problem.
It has created an impossible position for Horner to manage.
Two weeks ago, Horner stood by his driver after Verstappen started boycotting SkyF1 for comments made by one of their staff.
It was all rather messy but he remained loyal to Verstappen and his dad, and his driver’s manager.
But where was the loyalty shown by Verstappen to Perez, or Horner, or Red Bull Racing?
Horner says they will discuss it again internally, with speculation that it could be some sort of payback for Perez’s spin in Monaco, which cost Verstappen a shot at pole.
This could be a moment where Horner’s own position in the team has been compromised.
It feels like we are straying into to Cristiano Ronaldo territory here where one person thinks they are bigger than the team itself, and that can only end badly.
MERCEDES say they were worried that George Russell would not make it to the end of the Sao Paulo GP because he had a water leak on his car.
Boss Toto Wolff, who watched the race from the team’s HQ in Brackley, said: “We had a water leak on the car throughout the race and it wasn’t clear whether we could actually make it to the end.”
But rather than panicking Russell, they decided just not to tell him and keep their fingers crossed he made it
IT’S BEEN A WHILE
RUSSELL and Hamilton’s 1-2 finish was the first for a British duo since the 2010 Canadian GP.
Hamilton was Jenson Button’s teammate back then.
DANIEL RICCIARDO has been hit with a three-place grid penalty for his final race in F1.
The McLaren driver has seen his contract for next season scrapped by the team, as they have signed Oscar Piastri instead.
The Aussie got the penalty for causing a crash in Brazil that also took Kevin Magnussen out of the race on the first lap.
REPORTS in Germany say a deal has been done by the Haas F1 team to replace Mick Schumacher with veteran racer, Nico Hulkenberg.
The Haas team have grown frustrated by Schuamcher’s crashes, which had cost them millions in repair bills.
Hulkenberg, 35, left F1 in 2019 and has spent the last few years as a reserve driver, making five appearances in three years for covid-struck drivers.
TAN THE MAN
NICK TANDY has joined Porsche’s line up for their World Endurance Championship and IMSA SportsCar WeatherTech Championship.
The Brit won the Le Mans 24 race in 2015 and is back at Porsche after a two-year absence.
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