Max Verstappen’s refusal to move aside to promote Sergio Perez into second place in the Formula 1 standings got most of the attention after the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
At Interlagos Circuit, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crossed the finish line in a disappointing sixth place ahead of teammate Sergio Perez in seventh to conclude what was probably the team’s worst overall race weekend of the 2022 Formula 1 season, but he did so after being ordered by the team to let Perez pass him.
Perez is locked in a battle for second place in the driver standings with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, while Verstappen already secured his second consecutive world championship more than a month ago.
Verstappen responded by telling the team not to ask him to move aside for his teammate again, noting that he had already given them his “reasons” for making that decision and thus not obeying their order.
Some of the criticism was warranted, given the fact that Perez has played a huge role in being a wingman for Verstappen since arriving at the team last year, and without a few of his moves last season, Verstappen may not have been crowned world champion for the first time.
Had Verstappen moved aside, Perez would be sitting two points ahead of Leclerc in second place in the driver standings. Instead, they are tied heading into the season finale in Abu Dhabi, with Leclerc owning the tiebreaker due to having three wins compared to Perez’s two.
But Ferrari were in a similar position with their two drivers, and yet the fact that Carlos Sainz Jr. finished in third place ahead of Leclerc in fourth was hardly discussed.
Leclerc called the situation a “joke”.
It’s no surprise that Verstappen’s lack of compliance is garnering more attention, although considering the fact that he made up four spots from his final restart position of 10th place and Perez dropped like a rock from third to seventh, it’s not exactly like Verstappen was ordered to move over for a quicker car like we’ve seen for Perez in the past.
As for Leclerc, he had made up slightly more ground than Sainz, moving up two positions from sixth place as opposed to one from fourth.
The main difference is that Red Bull ordered Verstappen to move aside, while Ferrari simply refused to allow Leclerc past Sainz.
And, of course, there’s the fact that whatever Verstappen (or Red Bull) does, there will be criticism. If he had instead let Perez pass him, there would be talk about how Perez’s second place in the standings — or more so Red Bull’s 1-2 — was fake.
Let’s not pretend we don’t know how Twitter works and how the mainstream media talking heads operate. It’s simply not a Formula 1 race weekend without some sort of manufactured drama, and team orders will forever be low-hanging fruit in one way or another. They’re hated, until they’re not.
But back to this particular situation itself.
If second place in the standings is really the concern that many are making it out to be for Perez, it’s mind-boggling that this inaction on Ferrari’s part isn’t getting at least a little bit more attention.
To be fair to Sainz, however, you never want to take a podium off of somebody, whereas Verstappen’s sixth place finish didn’t exactly mean much.
There was also less of a buffer from fourth to fifth place (Alpine’s Fernando Alonso) behind Leclerc, explaining Ferrari’s “risky” message to Leclerc, while there was a bigger buffer from seventh to eighth (Alpine’s Esteban Ocon) behind Perez.
Ferrari can’t afford to lose points to Mercedes in the constructor standings, especially after the latter’s first win of the season and first 1-2 finish in more than two years.
But if Ferrari and Red Bull had successfully executed moves to allow their drivers battling for second place in the standings by finishing higher than their teammates, Leclerc would actually have ended up gaining three points compared to Perez’s two, and he would own a one- point lead heading into Abu Dhabi.
Instead, neither driver ended up moving up a spot, and Leclerc only leads because of a tiebreaker that will be irrelevant unless none of them score any points (or if they both score two, one via a ninth place finish and the other via a 10th place finish with the fastest lap) in the season finale.
Will Ferrari end up kicking themselves over this, even though 99% of the post-race chatter has revolved around Red Bull and the idea that the sky is falling within the 2022 constructor world championship-winning organization after they failed to win a race for the first time in over four months?
The season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 20, and it is set to be broadcast live on ESPN from the Yas Marina Circuit beginning at 8:00 am ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!