Red Bull is again on top of F1 with a 1-2 finish at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez expressed frustrations over his second-place finish as he was ordered not to race for the win.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner blamed the decision on the scorching temperatures and not wanting to risk a failure.
Red Bull’s dominating performance at the Spanish Grand Prix showed it is once again the team to beat, but its biggest challenge now might be within its own garage.
Defending champion Max Verstappen won the race after some early struggles, and teammate Sergio Perez finished second. It was Verstappen’s fourth win in six races, and it was the second time Red Bull had come home 1-2.
But despite the positive team result — Red Bull took the lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships — Perez was upset about how the race was managed. At two points, he was asked not to race for the win despite having the more dominant car most of the day.
The first issue came on lap 26 of 66, as George Russell and Verstappen battled for second place. With Verstappen’s DRS failing, Perez, in fourth, asked to be let through so he could go after Russell.
“Get me Max out of the way, so I overtake easily,” Perez said on the team radio.
Max did not clear the way. Instead, he pitted three laps later and switched to soft tires. This was important as it showed Verstappen would be on a three-stop strategy, while Perez was still aiming for two stops.
Perez said after the race that he might have been able to make the two-stop strategy work if he had been let through, but the team went back on what they had told him earlier.
“I was told that I was going to get [the spot] back,” Perez said. “And we knew we were on different strategies. So when I was back on it, I felt like I could have gone through and probably given a better shot at my strategy, to make it work.”
However, on lap 47, as Perez held the lead in front of Verstappen following a pit stop, the team told Perez to let Max through as he had the quicker car.
“That is very unfair, but OK,” Perez said on the team radio.
Two laps later, Perez slowed down and moved over in turn four to let Verstappen take the lead.
Perez was still unhappy after crossing the finish line, despite the 1-2 finish.
“I am happy for the team, but we need to speak later,” Perez said.
After the race, team principal Christian Horner replied to the criticism that he should have let his drivers decide it on the track. He cited the scorching temperatures, 36 degrees C (97 degrees F) in the air and 49 degrees C (120 degrees F) on the track before the race.
“We had temperatures raging — water, oil, brakes — and the last thing you want to risk is a DNF [did not finish] when you’ve got two cars that can potentially nail a 1-2,” Horner told Sky Sports. “They were on different strategies, so it wasn’t a straight fight. Max had such a tire advantage, and Checo’s tires wouldn’t have made it to the end … The offset was so great between the two of them. Max, at that stage, because of the tire delta, was about two seconds a lap quicker. It just didn’t make sense to let them fight it out.”
Perez was asked if he thought he could have won the race but took the high road, at least publicly, in praising the team win.
“Yes, I think it was close,” Perez said. “But at the end, it is a great team result, and I’m happy for that.”
Tension between drivers is not uncommon as F1 has the unusual structure of teammates, who are also foes on the track. Those tensions are amplified on the top teams where both drivers are among the best, and each has a car capable of winning.
But as Horner mentioned, the team comes first, which usually means there is a “Driver 1” and a “Driver 2.” Verstappen has earned his status as No. 1, and now Horner will have to manage Perez’s frustrations.
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