Max Verstappen’s refusal to help Sergio Pérez in his bid for second place in the championship was reportedly based on the frustration that simmered in the five months following the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

According to two Dutch journalists well connected to the Verstappen camp, the two-time world champion believes Pérez deliberately crashed at the end of qualifying for this event in order to line up ahead of him in the subsequent race. Pérez won in Monaco and Verstappen finished third.

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Verstappen’s refusal to comply with what was a simple request to finish seventh instead of sixth at Interlagos means Pérez enters the last level of the points race with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – Red Bull is determined to secure first place in the drivers’ championship. for the first time in its history, but Verstappen’s decision made matters more difficult.

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The incident provided a wonderful insight into Verstappen’s character – a moment of defiant defiance from a man who ended the championship four races ago with a record number of race wins in a single season in a superb Red Bull RB18 car. small from 15 races ago.

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It also raises big questions about Red Bull driver harmony, which was last year’s strong point for the 2023 World Championship winning team.

What exactly happened in Monaco?

The incident that seems to have caused all this is the third qualifying session of the Monte Carlo race. An important note to everything here is that Monaco took place a week after Pérez moved to allow Verstappen to win the Spanish Grand Prix, a team order he disagreed with but obeyed. Perez was fired up that weekend.

In Q3, riders usually get two tries, one at the beginning of the session and one at the end, with a break to change tires. After the first runs in Monaco, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were first and second, Perez third and Verstappen fourth.

At the start of the following qualifying heats, Pérez spun while going through Portier, a right turn before the famous Monte Carlo tunnel section, and crashed into a wall. This meant a red flag that immediately neutralized the session and fixed the starting positions as they were.

On Sunday, Pérez took third and then first, timing the early pit stop perfectly to overtake the Ferrari drivers and win the race. Verstappen ran a disappointing third in a four-car train on a track where overtaking is nearly impossible. Although he did not show much disappointment that Sunday evening, it is clear that this moment had a big impact on Verstappen.

The day after that race in Monaco, Verstappen’s father, Hawes, was very outspoken, writing a blog on his son’s official website criticizing the team.

“Red Bull had a good result, but at the same time had little impact to help Max come forward,” Jos wrote at the time.

He added: “I think ten points from Max were lost here. Especially since we’ve had two retirements, we need all the points. Don’t forget that Ferrari has a better car now, especially in qualifying.”

In a recent interview with Erik van Haren of the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, one of the most connected journalists in the Verstappen camp, Jos was asked what he thought was the turning point in his son’s second victorious campaign.

“The Monaco race was the turning point for me,” he said. “That weekend when he got mad at the way things were going, [it] did something to him. After that, he no longer had a measure. I know if Max had a disappointing race, he really wants to catch up.”

These quotes seem rather cryptic when read with knowledge of Verstappen’s views on qualifying at this event.

Whether Perez did it on purpose or not is an open question. Parallel videos of his first and second Q3 laps in Monaco, circulated on social media Sunday night, do show a distinct difference in Pérez’s application of gas during the latest attempt, but that itself is open to interpretation. While some have suggested that the difference was a deliberate act to cause his car to crash into barriers, it could also be the sound of his rear wheels spinning unexpectedly on that part of the track.

According to Van Haren and ViaPlay’s Tom Coronel, at the next race in Baku, Pérez confessed to Christian Horner and Helmut Marko that he intentionally crashed. Sportzshala was unable to confirm if this confession took place.

On Sunday, shortly after meeting with Pérez, Horner and Marco to discuss what happened on the last lap at Interlagos, Verstappen suggested in his TV interviews that an incident earlier this year influenced his decision.

“Well, I have my reasons for this,” Verstappen said. “We just discussed this and I think it would be best if we finally sat down together and talked about it and then just moved forward.”

When Sky Sports F1’s Rachel Brooks asked if the incident he was talking about had to do with Monaco, Verstappen smiled and said, “I’ll let you work it out on your own.”

When Sportzshala reached out to Red Bull, it denied that Monaco was mentioned during the post-race summaries in Sao Paulo, but offered no explanation of what else Verstappen might have had in mind.

What happens next?

Pérez’s radio message immediately after the race spoke eloquently of his mindset: “This shows who he really is.”

Pérez was visibly angry when he spoke to TV reporters immediately afterwards.

He told a Spanish-language broadcaster: “I believe that if he has two championships, then this is my merit.”

This quote was obviously exaggerated, but underlined how offended he felt immediately afterwards. He later shortened it to: “After everything I’ve done for him, it’s a little disappointing, to be honest. I have no idea. I’m really surprised.”

Pérez’s tough defensive performance against Hamilton in Abu Dhabi last year earned him the nickname “Mexico’s Minister of Defense,” which may have helped keep Hamilton in the lead just outside the pit stop window he needed in case the safety car was late. This was essential to ensure that Verstappen could win the race and the title on the last lap.

Red Bull seemed pleased that the situation was resolved after leaving Sao Paulo – Horner said his riders shook hands after that meeting – but whether Perez will take orders from the team in the future is now open, especially if The team will face a bigger championship challenge in 2023 than for most of this year.

Although Red Bull has worked hard to refute speculation that the team is built around Verstappen, the Dutchman appeared to be clear on Sunday night where he sees his place in relation to Perez.

Asked if Verstappen thought he was more than a team, Horner replied: “No, we work as a team, we race as a team.”

The topic of Red Bull’s discussion then became Verstappen’s willingness to help Perez in Abu Dhabi, prompting the question of why he made the math difficult at all.

“If we go to Abu Dhabi and he needs points because they are even, it’s not the end of the world, it all depends on who finishes ahead anyway. If he needs help, I’ll be there,” Verstappen said. .

“But it’s good that we talked about it now and, in principle, clarified everything that was there, why I didn’t do it.”

Horner added: “Our goal, our priority is to see if we can make Cheko second in the championship.

“Max also promised that we will do our best to achieve this. It’s a straight fight between Checo and Charles, and if there’s anything Max can do to help, he’ll do it.

“We discussed it as a team, we discussed it behind closed doors. Later we will discuss this in a larger group. we’re moving on.”

One smaller but still fascinating element in all of this is the future of Daniel Ricciardo. Sportzshala understands the Australian is still in talks with Mercedes and Red Bull about a reserve driver role for 2023. The decision is not in a hurry, but it could be announced at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

A return to Red Bull now may seem like the more reasonable of the two options, as a further rift between Verstappen and Pérez could open up Ricciardo’s opportunity to return to a racing role in 2024. Events in São Paulo could end up working against that option if Red Bull felt that adding a competitive third driver to the team’s roster would further displease Perez.