Max Verstappen says team-mate Sergio Perez actions could have caused ‘big shunt’

By Sports Desk July 01, 2023

Max Verstappen said he was fortunate to avoid a high-speed shunt with Sergio Perez after accusing his Red Bull team-mate of forcing him off the road in Saturday’s sprint race at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen survived the early drama to win a chaotic 24-lap dash in damp conditions at Red Bull’s home race in Spielberg and extend his championship lead from 69 points to 70.

But despite racking up yet another victory on his probable gallop to a hat-trick of world championships, Verstappen expressed his disappointment with the conduct of Perez in the other Red Bull.

“The exit of Turn 1 was not really nice,” said Verstappen on his way back to the pits after he crossed the finish line 21 seconds clear of the Mexican.

“That could have been a big shunt so we need to have a chat about that because it was not OK.”

Verstappen was referencing the flashpoint between the Red Bull drivers which arrived after only a few hundred metres.

The Dutchman started from pole position, but he was unable to prevent a fast-starting Perez from muscling his way past on the run to the opening right hander.

Perez took the lead, but the Mexican then ran wide on the exit of the first bend allowing Verstappen the opportunity of a slingshot back past.

Verstappen drew alongside his team-mate, but he ran out of room, briefly dropping two wheels on the grass.

“He pushed me off, man,” yelled Verstappen over the radio. “What the f***.”

However, on the long drag to the third bend, Verstappen managed to maintain enough momentum to launch an aggressive move down the inside of Perez.

Verstappen, late on the brakes, ran deep into the right-hander, but he managed to make the move stick. And this time, it was Perez who felt aggrieved.

“What is wrong with Max, man?” he said. As Verstappen raced off into the distance, Perez then lost out to Nico Hulkenberg before eventually finding a way past the Haas driver.

The inquest started immediately after the flag dropped with Perez going over to Verstappen, while the world champion still had his crash helmet on.

The debrief continued into the weighing room as the team-mates spoke for a couple of minutes before revealing their verdicts.

“Max was angry that I went into Turn 2 but I did not see him,” said Perez.

“I had a very bad Turn 1 so I tried to protect [the lead] and once I realised he was there, I opened up the door and gave him the place back. It is all fine. We just spoke about it. The visibility was very bad out there.”

Verstappen was up next. “It was a hairy moment out of Turn 1,” he said. “When you get forced on to the grass it is very slippery but I managed to keep my car under control.”

Moments later, Verstappen headed to the official press conference for the top three finishers. Sitting alongside Perez, he moved to downplay the row.

“It might have compromised the result but it didn’t,” said Verstappen. “We don’t need to make this a big story.

“This is what happens sometimes. We talk about it. We clear it. And it is fine. That is how human beings work. Question, answer, solve it, done. You don’t need to write a whole article about it, I hope.”

Behind Verstappen and Perez, Carlos Sainz took third for Ferrari, while George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished eighth and 10th for Mercedes. Lando Norris started third and ended a disappointing ninth.

Hamilton fought back from 18th on the grid after he had three qualifying laps deleted for exceeding track limits.

Russell started 15th but managed to make up seven places and take the final point after his roll of the dice to move to slick tyres – the first driver to do so – with nine laps to run paid off.

Saturday’s result has no bearing on Sunday’s 71-lap Grand Prix, with Verstappen on pole as he bids to land his seventh victory from the nine rounds so far.

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