Max Verstappen steals Sergio Perez’s throne as Dutchman defies orders

F1 preview: A lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen stole Sergio Perez’s winner’s throne as the pair had a disagreement over team orders in Saudi Arabia. Verstappen sat down on the chair reserved for the race winner in the cooldown room moments after the chequered flag.

The Dutchman was supposed to sit on the right-hand seat but diverted for the middle despite Perez’s number being plastered on the back. The pair then began a heated discussion over how Verstappen managed to secure the fastest laps despite team orders.

Red Bull had demanded the reigning champion continue setting 1:33 laps to control the pace in the dying stages of the Grand Prix. However, the 25-year-old ignored the request on the final lap as he set a 1:31.9 to clinch the extra point off his team-mate.

After finding out about Verstappen’s decision, Perez confronted him about the issue in front of the cameras.

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The Mexican said: “Did you have the fastest lap?” Verstappen responded: “In the last round, yes.”

Sounding shocked, Perez replied: “Weren’t you told to keep the pace?” But, Verstappen defended his decision, adding: “1.33.0, yes. In the end, I asked what the fastest lap was and it was not much faster than we had already driven.”

Later Perez hit back: “That was the information I had and that’s why I didn’t push at the end.” Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase had tried to encourage the Dutchman to not go for the fastest lap towards the end of the race.

On lap 46, Verstappen asked: “What is the fastest race lap?” Lambiase responded: “We’re not worried about that at the moment.”

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However, Max quickly responded: “Yes, but I do.” Verstappen’s antics denied Perez the chance to hold the championship lead heading to round three in Australia.

Verstappen now tops the standings by just one point with Perez holding a further 16-point advantage over Fernando Alonso. However, the extra point could be pivotal at the end of the championship if Perez can sustain a title challenge.

He explained: “I think we have been really close in Bahrain, we’ve been close here. It’s just where we are, we are living in very small margins at the moment.”

When pushed on whether he could challenge Verstappen throughout the campaign, Perez added: “I’m here to fight. That is the only reason I come here.” It comes just months after the pair clashed in a team orders feud at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Verstappen refused to let Perez through which led to an open warfare between the two Red Bull stars. Perez blasted Verstappen after Sao Paulo, admitting the incident showed “who he really is”.

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