Max Verstappen and Red Bull have slammed online threats and abuse against the world champion and his family after he ignored team orders at last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen refused his team’s instructions to let team-mate Sergio Perez qualify on the last lap of the race in Brazil. Perez said he had previously allowed the Dutchman to overtake on the understanding that his position in the race would return.
“I was asked to let him pass, that I would take the position back,” Perez told Sky Sports at the weekend, having earlier said Verstappen’s actions showed “who he really is”.
Double Formula One world champion Verstappen addressed the controversy on Thursday, saying: “After that race of course I looked really bad in the media.
But they also did not have the clear picture. To put me down on the spot like that is so absurd. They don’t know how I work in a team and what the team values in me. All the things I’ve read are disgusting.”
He added that people on social media had “started attacking my family”.
“They were threatening my sister, my mother, my girlfriend and my father. And for me that goes too far. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine. But don’t go after my family because that’s not acceptable.”
He added, “When your sister writes to you that it’s getting too much and you have to do something about it, I think that’s enough.” “And then you get to me because you can’t attack my family.”
Red Bull addressed the comments in a statement on Thursday, saying: “Abusive behavior online towards Max, Checo, the team and their families is appalling, sad and unfortunately something we as a sport have to address with frustrating regularity. It has no place in racing or in society at large and we need to do and be better.
“At the end of the day this is a sport, we are here to race. Death threats, hate mail, vitriol towards extended family members is deplorable. We value inclusion and want a safe space for everyone to work and enjoy our sport. The abuse must stop.”
Verstappen also addressed the controversy over the race weekend
“It wasn’t about the situation… it was about something that happened earlier in the season,” he said Thursday.
“I already explained it in Mexico and the team understood it and agreed.
“We went to Brazil and I just thought we were going to race and try to get the best possible result. We had a bit of a misunderstanding on Saturday and Sunday, and nothing was said to me about a possible swap.”
Red Bull admitted the situation had not been handled appropriately and added in its statement that the issue had been resolved privately.
“As a team we made some mistakes in Brazil. We didn’t envision the situation that happened on the last lap and we didn’t agree on a strategy for such a scenario before the race,” the team said.
He added that Verstappen was only asked to give up at the final corner “without passing on all the necessary information”.
The statement continued, “This put Max, who had always been an open and fair player on the team, in a position of compromise with little time to react which was not our intention.”
“After the race, Max spoke openly and honestly, allowing both drivers to resolve any outstanding issues or concerns. Before the team accepted Max’s reasoning, the conversation was a personal matter that would remain confidential between the team and no further comment would be made.”
Perez told Sky Sports that the issue was discussed internally, adding, “We are ready to move forward as a team.”
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