Red Bull's order to Sergio Perez to let Max Verstappen through at the Spanish Grand Prix was a 'more contentious' call than the one made by Mercede
Red Bull’s order to Sergio Perez to let Max Verstappen through at the Spanish Grand Prix was a ‘more contentious’ call than the one made by Mercedes to benefit Lewis Hamilton’s title hopes in Russia back in 2018, according to Jolyon Palmer. Verstappen clinched his fourth Grand Prix victory of the new F1 season in Barcelona to move ahead of Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship standings but needed Perez to yield during the closing stages of the race in order to rubber-stamp the result.
Perez was less than impressed with Red Bull’s strategy and made his feelings known via team radio before demanding a post-race explanation in the immediate aftermath of the chequered flag. Palmer has since revealed that the incident left a sour taste in his mouth before insisting that Verstappen should have been made to fight Perez on pure pace at this early stage of the new campaign.
“People will say that Mercedes have done team orders and everyone else has done team orders in the past,” Palmer told F1’s official website as part of his post-race analysis after the Spanish Grand Prix.
“This year it just feels a little bit more contentious to me because whilst Mercedes have done it, famously in Sochi [in 2018] with Bottas getting out of the way for Hamilton, that was with about four or five races to go.
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“Bottas wasn’t in contention [for the title] whereas Hamilton was. Technically speaking, Perez was only 19 points behind Verstappen coming into this race. One bad race for Verstappen and a win for Perez and he’d be ahead of Max.
“He’s had a pole position this year and is driving quite nicely. I know that Verstappen is probably going to be the main contender, Red Bull know it and Perez probably knows it as well.
“But I think it was just a bit harsh that Red Bull didn’t let Checo at least try and fight and see what he could do. Maybe it was inevitable.”
Palmer went on to explain that Red Bull’s decision to play the team game in only the sixth race of the year could set a dangerous precedent with regards to Ferrari, who are widely expected to battle the Austrian outfit for the end-of-season honours over the course of the current campaign.
“The other thing is that it means Ferrari will maybe have to do their own team orders,” added Palmer. “If Red Bull are going to play like this from race six, and Charles Leclerc is looking this good but now behind in the championship, it could encourage Ferrari to think: ‘Fine, Leclerc’s our man and we’ll have to do the same.'”
It remains to be seen whether Red Bull or Ferrari will be prepared to execute team orders at the next time of asking when the on-track action resumes along the streets of Monaco this weekend. Verstappen won last year’s race in the principality and will be desperate to follow up with another maximum haul of points in order to extend his narrow advantage over home favourite Leclerc at the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.
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