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Christian Horner is fighting to keep Red Bull united and its reputation


Red Bull boss Christian Horner was struggling to salvage his team’s unity and reputation on Sunday night after an acrimonious finish to the Brazilian Grand Prix sparked a clash between drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

The hidden Verstappen, who had already secured his second world title in a row, refused to divulge his reasons for disobeying team orders while Perez, shocked by his teammate’s outrageous behavior, said he (Verstappen) “showed who he really is.”

Perez, whose exceptional defensive driving in the closing laps of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix helped Verstappen beat seven-times Mercedes champion Lewis Hamilton to his maiden drivers’ title, said he was overwhelmed by the row.

Read also | ‘It was an emotional rollercoaster’: George Russell is silent after winning the Sao Paulo Prix for Mercedes

“I don’t understand what his reaction was. If he had two championships, that’s my thanks.”

Horner called the pair together for a meeting to mend their relationship after Verstappen refused to obey a team order to let Perez pass him for sixth in the closing laps.

Red Bull wanted to back the Mexican’s bid to finish ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ title race – but they are now level on 290 points with one race remaining and Monaco ahead in the race.

Verstappen’s blunt refusal, broadcast on team radio, shocked Red Bull as the team struggled to achieve its worst result since the season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“I already told you last time,” he said, responding to his race engineer. “You guys don’t ask me that again, okay? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it.”

The row between the champions’ drivers has caused many circuit watchers to be intrigued, with Horner and Red Bull both refusing to explain Verstappen’s complaint.

“As a team, we discuss these matters internally,” Horner said. The drivers discussed it, and they were very clear.

We’re going to Abu Dhabi to get our second place ‘Checo’ and Max will support that. We won’t talk about what’s going on internally, but the drivers shook hands with him.

“And we work as a team. We race as a team and our priority is to help Checo get second place in the championship. We will do everything we can to make it happen and if Max can help in any way he will.”

– ‘he moved’ –

Verstappen said he and Perez drew a line in the dispute and moved on – just as he and Red Bull recently ‘moved on’ following a row with Sky SportsF1 over alleged prejudice against the team that led them to snub the broadcaster in Mexico.

On Sunday night, a journalist from Amsterdam-based De Telegraaf, the Netherlands’ best-selling daily newspaper, reported that Verstappen’s refusal was payback to Perez for costing him his chance to win the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this year.

It was reported that the Mexican driver deliberately crashed in qualifying causing a red flag pit stop that ended the session when he was third, ahead of the Dutchman.

Perez then went on to win the race on Sunday and, according to the report, later confirmed to team officials that he crashed on purpose.

Reporter Eric van Haren also posted on Twitter supportive comments made by pundit Tom Coronel on ViaPlay, which broadcasts F1 in the Netherlands, alleging Perez admitted he crashed on purpose in Monaco to Horner and team advisor Helmut Marko. He was quoted as saying, “Max Verstappen hasn’t forgotten that.”

This latest public outburst came on the heels of revelations, last month, by the FIA, that Red Bull breached the sport’s $145 million ($) cost cap last year.

The team was fined $7 million and placed a 10 percent limit on wind tunnel development in a punishment Horner described as “draconian”.

Verstappen’s day in Sao Paulo was also marred by a collision with Hamilton on lap seven, which saw him break his front wing and receive a five-second penalty for causing an accident.

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