Nutshell: Max Verstappen is Simply Max Verstappen
The Brazilian GP produced tension between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
We needed some drama to close out this season of Formula 1. With the Constructors and Drivers championship all wrapped up (Red Bull and Max Verstappen, respectively), there have been precious little of those ever-so-delicious squabbles for us to talk about. There is arguably no sport with more backstabbing and pettiness than F1, as shown by the Max Verstappen-Sergio Perez kerfuffle that occurred during yesterday's Brazilian Grand Prix.
Give me more!!!
"Nah, fam."- Max Verstappen, internally
Some context: Max Verstappen is the 2022 Formula 1 Champion. Yesterday's race was basically irrelevant for him. He's still going to give it his all, obviously, but in the grand scheme of things, it matters far less for him than it does for other drivers still fighting for positions.
Other drivers like...his Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez.
Sergio Perez entered the Brazilian Grand Prix with a slim lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc for 2nd place on the grid. Now that Max's place atop the standings is solidified, it's understandable that Red Bull would prioritize Sergio if given the chance. It would be a thrill for Christian Horner and Co. to have their two drivers finish atop the standings, and "Checo" has been the consummate professional and instrumental teammate for them. Max Verstappen likely does not win last season's nailbiter of a championship without the help of Perez, and that constant support from his wingman has continued this season.
Whelp, with Verstappen sitting in 6th and Checo sitting in 7th near the end of yesterday's race, Verstappen straight up refused a team order to swap positions with his teammate, which would have helped Perez maintain his slim lead over Leclerc. Perez and Leclerc are now tied for 2nd with 290 points heading into the last race of the season, with Leclerc holding the tiebreaker due to more victories. Had Verstappen taken one for the team, Perez would be in sole possession of 2nd place.
"It shows who he really is."- Sergio Perez, actually
Checo pulled no punches when talking about his teammate's decision to not switch places with him. "After all I've done for him, it's a bit disappointing..." "I think if he has two championships, it's thanks to me." Verstappen, when receiving the order, said "I told you already last time. Don't ask that again to me. Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it."
Reports now suggest Verstappen was getting his revenge on Checo for a crash in Monaco earlier in the season. Max allegedly felt that Perez crashed on purpose during the qualifying round in order to prevent him from starting ahead of Perez (Verstappen ended up coming in 3rd, while Perez won). It's safe to say this is going to be a BANGER of an episode on the next season of Netflix's Formula 1: Drive to Survive.
In the end, though, Checo is right. This is who Max Verstappen is. He has one objective as he enters every race: win. The opponent does not matter, his team does not matter. He's out there to drive that fucking car better than everyone else, and clearly, he holds petty grudges. This mentality is likely part of what makes him so great. It's also what makes it so difficult to be his teammate, as Perez and several others before him have found out. That's "Mad Max" in a nutshell, for better or worse. Pun intended.
Troubling Trend for Red Bull?
Christian Horner has to be sweating a little about this infighting among his championship team. Mercedes maintained their stronghold on the Formula 1 world for so long in part because Toto Wolff and his crew/drivers were almost always united, all working towards a common goal like a well-oiled machine. An internal rift is not good for Red Bull, despite how successful this season has been for them.
But I'm no Red Bull fan, so bring on the drama, baby! I say Perez vs. Max in the Octagon after the season's over; winner is the top Red Bull driver next season (my money's on Checo).