Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Yas Marina, 2022

Verstappen says holding up Leclerc to help Perez would not have been “fair”

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen says it would not have been fair for him to hold up Charles Leclerc in an effort to help his team mate take second place in the championship.

Leclerc finished second behind Verstappen in today’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, securing the points he needed to end the season second in the championship ahead of Sergio Perez.

During the final laps of the race Perez closed on second-place Leclerc, but finished 1.3 seconds behind the Ferrari. Verstappen said the team never asked him to slow down and delay Leclerc to assist Perez in his pursuit.

“That is quite a tricky call to make,” he said. “You also don’t want to end up… of course you can possibly block. But I mean, is that fair racing? I think it’s not the nicest way going out of the season like that.”

Perez had fresher tyres than Leclerc and seemed likely to catch him at one stage but lost time lapping Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon, Verstappen pointed out.

“It looked like Checo was catching him enough to try and actually get a move. But then he lost quite a bit of time with that bit of a fuss between Pierre and Alex. He lost quite a bit of time with that, because I was watching that on the screens.”

Verstappen believes Perez’s best chance of taking second place would have been to push harder in his second stint. However Red Bull believed at the time that the tyres needed more careful treatment.

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“That second stint, because the deg was quite high on the medium, in hindsight, probably as a team, we could have pushed a bit more on that middle stint for Checo.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Yas Marina, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in pictures
“But that’s always easy to say afterwards. At the time we thought that we had to be a little bit careful on the tyres. We’ve had a lot of great weekends but even in great weekends there are always things that you can learn.”

Perez agreed he should have increased the pace during his middle stint. “We thought that the deg[radation] was going to be higher than it was and we just didn’t push as much as we should have pushed in that second stint and probably we left two seconds on the table there,” he said.

At one point in his second stint Perez said he was losing time because of Verstappen, who was around two seconds ahead of him at the time. However he admitted he was also compromised by pitting six laps earlier than Leclerc at the end of his first stint.

“Today I think Ferrari and Charles did a fantastic race,” he said. “They have great tyre management and they were stronger than us, especially in that first stint I died towards the end and that made it a little bit tricky, our strategy.

“Just that second stint when I was behind Max, Max was on a one-stop, I was on a two-stop. And then I ended up not being able to maximise the stint. And I couldn’t push as much as we should have pushed on that second stint. But at the end of the day we gave it all and that’s what really matters.”

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2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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62 comments on “Verstappen says holding up Leclerc to help Perez would not have been “fair””

  1. Yes, the exact thing that Perez got called a legend for doing last year to Hamilton is not all of a sudden “unfair”, for our champion of variable ethics. Top work

    1. The difference is Hamilton was faster than Perez so he was trying to get past him. This time would have meant that Verstappen would have to slow down and hold Leclerc up while staying ahead. There is a difference. Ultimately the strategy calls decided the 2nd place.

      1. I don’t think Red Bull made a strategic error. Leclerc took second because he was the better driver on the day. He was just two seconds behind when Perez pitted and was catching him, likely to pass if both had gone to the end. And Perez was only two seconds behind despite his error at the chicane, locking up and going wide, that allowed Vettel to spend an extra lap ahead, and later allowing Hamilton to repass him as well. Leclerc, on the other hand, was outstanding all race in speed and tyre management and thoroughly deserved second in the championship.

      2. I don’t think there is a difference. Perez could have gone quicker last year but purposefully went slowly to hold Lewis up. That was fine when it benefitted Max but the other way around is for some reason not fair in Max’s mind. You have to question who he thinks it is not fair to. I doubt he cares about Leclerc and actually thinks it is unfair for him to have to potentially give up a place to help his team mate…

      3. Mr Darren COURT
        21st November 2022, 23:34

        The difference is immaterial except if you’re trying to defend Max

    2. I guess if one tries hard enough, you can turn every single move of a driver into something negative.

      1. Verstappen does that on his own, nobody needs to try.

        He’s always been perfectly happy for the team to make tactical decisions in his favour which compromise his teammate, but the few times he’s been asked to return the favour, he’s refused.

        And “I think it’s not the nicest way going out of the season like that”? After last year?!

        It all looks like “anything is fair if it helps me, but if I have to lift a finger to help someone else I’ve got this long list of moral objections”.

    3. It would be more like Abu Dhabi 2016 with Hamilton slowing down Rosberg I guess.

    4. So, would you say Abu Dhabi 2016 was fair?

      1. Considering the mechanical problems hamilton got? Yes, it was against rosberg and he slowed down rosberg.

      2. Purposefully holding someone up while staying within the rules is fair. Runners do this all the time in middle and long distance races where a team will work to box another runner in so that they can not get in front without a lot of extra effort. We see footballers take the ball into the corner in the final minutes to stop the opposition getting the ball. We see Rugby teams make no attempt to go forward in an effort to keep control of the ball until the final whistle etc.

        Changing the rules to manipulate the result mid race though is not fair….

    5. Mate, you are so far off the mark. Totally different circumstances, baffling that anyone could draw comparisons there.

  2. Translation: “I only do things that immediately and directly benefit myself.”
    As the stated plan before the race was to benefit Perez, how about these ideas:
    a) letting Perez past into first,
    b) planning pitstops to benefit Perez instead of Max,
    c) use the tactics that Perez used a year ago to delay LeClerc,
    d) etc. etc. etc.
    But none of that happened, there was no attempt to achieve the WCC and 1st + 2nd WDC.
    Well done!

    1. Pretty much yeah. And have the team request his teammate does them.

    2. Ok, but given Perez’s average pace during the year, and on this race particularly, do you really think the Perez would be able to open an advantage large enough to hold everybody else?
      I mean, the race only finished the way it did because MERC fortuitously got out of the race: HAM with one-stop strategy, plus broken floor; RUS with the penalty..
      So, “a)” would mean that VER would have to hold almost everybody from LEC to RUS and once any of those passed VER, PER would be a sitting duck.
      I think they did “b”.
      “c” does seem applicable as a misstep from VER and LEC won the race.
      And note, I am not a VER fan, but RB has a car that is a 1sec faster than the rest of the grid – what else PER needs to beat a unreliable Ferrari?

      1. Red bull has been as reliable as ferrari this season.

      2. Max just had to hold Leclerc up for 2 seconds and Perez would have come second…

    3. 1) Verstappen could have let Perez past on the start, let him shoot into the distance, while defending all cars behind easily. It would have been a nice bit of action for Verstappen compared to a now pretty dull victory.
      2) Vertappen did a good job of giving DRS, but could have done it for longer. Slowing his pace slightly so Perez can follow around the 1 second mark, but not hold him up, as to make him benefit in the best possible way. They could have even synchronized DRS overtakes in case of cooling issues.

      And then finally at the end there was a little bit more tricky option:
      3) Verstappen could have backed Leclerc up into Perez with 15 laps to go. Then drop behind both Leclerc and Perez as to not give Leclerc DRS ahead. Perez has to do the overtake which I think he was able to with DRS advantage. Then Verstappen, because he is so much faster, passes Leclerc and then Perez lets him by so Verstappen still takes the win, but with his teammate now in 2nd.

  3. What to say? At the same race last season Perez was an ‘absolute legend’ in Max’s eyes for holding up Hamilton. This season the exact same tactic wouldn’t be ‘fair.’ So did Max win the title unfairly in his own view? Who’s going to ask him?

    For what it’s worth, I suspect he doesn’t think so ‘deep down’. Insofar as Verstappen has a racing ethic, it’s everyone for themselves, no holds barred, no help or quarter given, hard but fair racing (in his view). It’s a viable enough ethic, even admirable – if you stand by it, like any ethic: in other words, if you’re consistent and don’t make exceptions, even for yourself.

    1. It’s a viable enough ethic, even admirable – if you stand by it, like any ethic: in other words, if you’re consistent and don’t make exceptions, even for yourself.

      Precisely. I could respect that position. However, when he is not only done with the team doing such things in his favour, but actually asking them to do so… I don’t see how anyone can respect someone who behaves that way.

    2. Thats why for me, as a former Raikkonen fan, I respect the way Max goes about things. No pretence. No bullcrap. No lobbying with the media to plant seeds to get everyone onside or another driver in the firing line.
      He does what he does, races hard and doesn’t make excuses for it.

      1. I’m ambivalent about that because I don’t think Verstappen is identical to Raikkonen, who like you say very much did his own thing, was consistent in his racing, and basically turned up, went round the track, debriefed with his team (I presume) and went home, job done. Verstappen’s response to people driving the way he himself does isn’t so consistent, I don’t think. Likewise, he keeps quiet most of the time but then lets stuff slip into public view – like the remarks at the end of the Brazil race. Having looked at Monaco 2022 qualifying again, I can see why he thinks Perez spun deliberately. It’s very possible. Also, to be fair, Verstappen wasn’t that far ahead in the points at that stage and he’d lost points earlier in the season already through technical failures. So maybe it was more of an issue then than it appears in hindsight. But none of that makes him Raikkonen-like in how he’s dealt with the issue, for good or bad. In terms of not holding up Leclerc, it wouldn’t make sense and I don’t feel he should lose a win in a record-breaking season just so Perez gets a meaningless no 2 slot. Brazil, yes he could have made the sacrifice of some points for the sake of his team when it mattered little, he wasn’t even on the podium.

        1. David, now I am imagining Kimi and the team sitting aroun the table in the debrief,….

          Team Boss: So, Kimi, how was the front end grip on mediums
          Kimi: Leave me alone, can’t you see I’m busy

  4. RBR have put themselves in an impossible situation. Verstappen could have done more to help but also Perez should have done more all year. It would have felt contrived to have Max ruin Leclerc’s race for just a second place. In my opinion it is an extreme measure that is only justified with the championship on the line.
    In the end it was a straight fight and the best man won.

  5. Reggie Fast Pants
    20th November 2022, 18:25

    I’ve heard it all now.

  6. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    20th November 2022, 18:27

    Seems a comment very much lacking in self awareness. Really feels like something has happened behind closed doors.

    1. Pretty sure Max threw a tantrum and there are people in the back office at Red Bull who take a less than professional relationship with the whole thing. Perez deserved at least stay out and try to keep LEC behind him. That kind of strategy almost never favors a guy who is getting less time and attention for setup details concerning tire wear.

  7. nah, can’t blame him for risking losing a race just for Perez to be happy.

    He was despicable last week but now Red Bull had a faster car, it was only a matter of coming home ahead of a slower car and Perez -again- couldn’t do it.

    1. That is right.
      At some point PER has to start to help himself out of those situations. Two pitstops and he cant go much faster than LEC and VER on old tyres. Plus, not wasting time on two tentative overtakes after pitstops would make this “help from VER” a moot point.
      Althought some of VER answer are blunt, I think he is restraining to simply say: “Heey, we both are on the fastest car on the grid, but the guy simply can go fast enough. Why is it my problem now? Sincerely, I did more than my part. Had I not won 15 races, LEC would have the 2nd place locked a few races ago.”

      1. It would be much easier for Perez to “help himself” if he wasn’t already helping Max out… I wonder how Max would react if Perez refused to help Max, if he didn’t just let him past without a fight and refuses to hold up Verstappen’s rivals…

        1. Apart from Barcelona, I dont remember a race in which PER was clearly denied a chance to race VER, or otherwise ask to help VER.

        2. It´s all about speed. Max is so much quicker than Sergio that it almost never makes sense to have team orders in favor of Sergio.

    2. You’re right. The funniest bit was the chat at the end of the race when MV asked his engineer how Checo did. When told Perez was a second or so off to Leclerc at the line, Verstappen replies ‘so close then’ in a tone of, ‘oh well done, almost made it!’ Damned with faint praise.

  8. Enough about helping Perez. Leclerc is a better driver. Max is right last year Perez ran the best race he could in the process of holding off Hamilton not sandbagging pace like Max would have had to do today. Perez should be happy he was given the Red Bull and is in contention for second. He certainly isn’t the 2nd best driver.

  9. Times have changed. This season the speed of Verstappen is way to fast for everybody else. At full speed instead of cruising around most of the field would have been in an other postal code at the end of a race. Fact: Perez had to fight the rest alone. He failed.

  10. Verstappen missed a chance to throw an easy bone to Pérez last week, but this week there’s little to complain about.

    Red Bull was on the wrong foot with Pérez right from that early first stop, to which even the F1TV commentators responded a bit surprised, noting both Red Bull and Pérez were usually better on the tyres. That perhaps spooked them a bit, causing them to under-use the second stint’s set, which ensured they weren’t as far ahead by the time of that second stop as they could have been.

    Could Verstappen have dropped back to mess with Leclerc’s race? Yes. But the better question is: why was Pérez not 2nd this time, or a lot more times throughout the season? He had the best car on the grid; how much more help does he need?

    1. That bone would not have been big enough. Leclerc would still have won by a point today if Pérez were 2 points ahead in the championship at the start.

      Things might have been different if Sainz had let Leclerc by in Brazil. Then, if Max had not also let Checo past, just beating Charles in the race would not have been enough if Charles followed right behind, unless Checo won the race of course.

      But in Brazil Carlos kept his teammate behind as well. So Charles and Sergio were equal in points; the winner would take 2nd place. The best man won, and so it should be.

  11. Max is right. Its ridiculous to give a slower driver handouts and to be honest its a bit pathetic that Perez was struggling to be P2, he should have been well clear of Leclerc in that RedBull.

    Leclerc deserved that P2, it was well earned over a tough season made worse by Ferrari’s amateur strategy.

    1. Except when it’s to him. Then it must happen.

      1. Max like Schumacher doesn’t need team handouts. They were/are supremely fast enough to carry the team alone.

        Yes Perez helped Max last year but that was a one off under extreme circumstances.

        Only a few drivers in history would happily forgoe help from their teammate because they knew they completely dominated them. In recent times only Senna, Schumacher and now Verstappen have had that quality.

      2. And logically so. Max is so much faster that it is just common sense that Sergio moves out of the way when necessary…

        1. They just didn’t want to take risks, if you take for example interlagos and baku and you let them race, as long as perez didn’t defend over the limit of the rules, verstappen would fly past, was gaining 1 sec per lap.

  12. Leclerc did deserve second in the championship today, it’s also easy to forget that he made some mistakes this season that really cost him, like crashing out from the lead of the French Gp for one.
    To be honest all these drivers must except that their team mate is their biggest enemy, never their friend. If you have the worst car on the grid, at lest beat your team mate, or you end up like Nicholas Latifi.
    I have never liked team orders, regardless of the team or driver involved, but Red Bull have structured their team around Max Verstappen there is no doubt. It has been that way for years, long before Sergio Perez signed for the team, and I can see that remaining that way for as long as Verstappen is there.
    What for me has been a pleasant surprise is that Mercedes let their drivers race each other, and that has allowed Russell to show his talent and this is good. To be fair Bottas was given the same opportunities as was Rosberg before him, to the extent that Nico ended up with a championship.
    I can’t see that ever happening at Red Bull, even if the second driver were at Verstappen’s level or close to it.

  13. I’m wondering if HAM actually slowed up Perez enough for him not to catch Charles? Just desserts?

    1. @reggio68 I thought about that. Lewis basically did an early-season Charles Leclerc special, allowing Perez past at the end of the first DRS zone, making it look like he wouldn’t put up any fight, then came back in the second zone and retook the place. Nice. Perez was more awake the second time and pulled away but the extra lap probably did cost him. On purpose? Sure. But really not enough surely to make up for last year, either the lengths Perez went to slow him down, crawling through the corners, or what that set up as the Masi-orchestrated finale. Any in-kind payback would surely be something like Hamilton blocking Verstappen for Russell to win the championship next year (not beyond the realms of possibility).

  14. I don’t know how its unfair?

    F1 is a team sport and he would have been helping his team get its first ever 1-2 in the standings.

    This would have been a big thing for Redbulls PR department over the winter. I hope he gets reminded of his role behind the scenes, though after Brazil, it seems he really is control of that team.

  15. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    20th November 2022, 23:18

    Yeah, makes a lot of sense… Perez sacrificed his whole race last year to help Max.

    It shows who he really is. Max’s sense of fairness seems to revolve around himself.

    1. As a significantly slower driver there is not much more that you can do than sacrifice yourself for your team mate… The fact that Max is not doing the same to Sergio has got nothing to do with fairness, it´s just because he is so much faster and he is winning races and championships…

  16. is that a fair race? I think it’s not the best way to end the season like this.
    He must have asked this a year ago, when PER helped him by blatantly delaying HAM…
    And also, was the race director’s decision fair?
    I think 2021 was not the best way to win a championship.
    If it benefits me and helps, it’s fine and fair.

    1. Not the best way specifically in abu dhabi ofc, but if you sum up all the events of 2021, abu dhabi was justice in terms of points\luck.

  17. Is this guy for real ? Perez was a team guy, and likely the difference maker last year….this Verstappen dude is built different…

    1. I wholeheartedly agree: Champions are built different.

  18. Max Verstappen is the Donald Trump of F1

  19. This costchampion aka fia asssisted champion has no integrity. Neither doea he have a good memory. Its very difficult to not judge someone when his own words are the dog poop he keeps stepping on. Really showing who he is.

  20. This cost champion aka fia asssisted champion has no integrity. Neither does he have a good memory. Its very difficult to not judge someone when his own words are the dog poop he keeps stepping on. Really showing who he is.

  21. People here fail to notice that Perez was fighting for position last year with Hamilton. Yes he backed LH up, yes he had to make another pitstop at the time, but he was still fighting for position. Being a faster driver in front and then backing up Charles seems odd in my opinion.

    With Charles failure to score the max points on a lot of occasions this year (by his own doing, but also a lot of points by events out of his hands) it’s nice that he became 2nd this year.

    1. The only comparison I could think of would be abu dhabi 2016, but that was between the championship contenders, not a fight for 2nd involding the one who’s first too.

  22. No mention of Abu Dhabi 2016, when Hamilton backed his own teammate into Vettel and… Verstappen ? I have the feeling that it could have been on the latter’s mind when he made that “not fair” declaration.

    Verstappen seems to feel belittled by the way Hamilton treats him as a petulant child and always takes the moral high ground against him. It goes some way to explaining the special animosity between the two. It also explains the incredible overreaction to their Silverstone 2021 crash – of course, the toxic rivalry between RB and Mercedes did more than fuel that fire.

    For once in his life, Verstappen gets the chance to say that for ethical reasons, he forwent doing something that “Mister Pompous Ass” – in his view – did on the same track at another season’s finale. Now of course it is not exactly the same. Hamilton backed his own teammate for his personal benefit and to his team’s fury, while Verstappen would have played one for the team in exchange of risking his own victory. Not quite as attractive. I think Verstappen has made it clear that he was all for helping Perez, as long as the cost for him was exactly zero.

    1. No mention of Abu Dhabi 2016, when Hamilton backed his own teammate into Vettel and… Verstappen ? I have the feeling that it could have been on the latter’s mind when he made that “not fair” declaration.

      Verstappen said he would have done the same as Hamilton under the circumstances:

      “Dirty tricks” or fair game? What they said about Hamilton’s tactics

      1. That is indeed an interesting point, thanks ! The relation between the two has evolved a bit since 2016, though, to say the least.

  23. “Checo is a legend”

  24. What Max meant to say is that it would have been unfair to him, his ego, his mechanics, his Mom and Dad, his sister and everyone who has to like him because they’re related.

    He should have made it clear being “fair” to racing, to Leclerc or anyone else, was not the point of his comment.

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