Max Verstappen and Red Bull have threatened and insulted the world champion and his family online after he ignored team orders at last weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen refused his team’s instruction to let teammate Sergio Perez through on the last lap of the race in Brazil. Perez said he had let the Dutchman overtake earlier on the understanding that his position would be returned in the race.
“I was told to let him go, that I would get the position back,” Perez told Sky Sports over the weekend, having previously said Verstappen’s actions showed “who he really is.”
Two-time F1 world champion Verstappen responded to the controversy on Thursday, saying: “Obviously after that race I looked really bad in the media.
“But they didn’t have a clear picture either. To put me down like that right away is pretty ridiculous. They don’t know how I work within the team and what the team appreciates about me. All the things I’ve read are pretty disgusting.”
He added that people on social media “started attacking my family”.
“They threatened my sister, my mother, my girlfriend, my father. And that goes way too far for me. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine. But don’t go after my family because that’s just unacceptable.
“If your own sister writes to you that it’s getting way too much and you need to do something about it, I think that says enough,” he added. “And then it hits me, because you can’t attack my family.”
Red Bull responded to the comments in a statement on Thursday, saying: “The abusive online behavior towards Max, Checo, the team and their respective families is shocking and saddening and unfortunately it is something that we as a sport have to deal with with depressing regularity. It has no place in racing or society as a whole and we need to do better and get 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 in and enjoy our sport. The abuse must stop.”
Verstappen also spoke about the controversy during the weekend’s race
“It wasn’t about the position… It was about something that happened earlier in the season,” he said on Thursday.
“I already explained that in Mexico and the team understood and agreed.
“We went to Brazil and I thought we would just race and try to get the best possible result. We had a bit of a miscommunication on Saturday and Sunday, nothing had been said to me about a possible exchange.”
Red Bull admitted that 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 did not foresee the situation that occurred on the last lap and we did not agree on a strategy for such a scenario before the race,” the team said.
It added that Verstappen had only been told to give up position in the last corner “without all the necessary information being passed on.”
“This put Max, who has always been an open and honest team player, in a compromising situation with little time to react, which was not our intention,” the statement continued.
“After the race, Max spoke openly and honestly, allowing both drivers to resolve any outstanding issues or concerns. The team accepts Max’s reasoning, the conversation was a personal matter that will remain private between the team and no further comment will be made.”
Perez told Sky Sports the matter had been discussed internally, adding: “We are ready to move forward as a team.”