Horner: Red Bull drivers ‘free to race’
By Mat Coch
Tuesday 28th March, 2023 - 3:40pm
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has laughed away suggestions his team might employ team orders and they are instead free to race.
Both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have claimed one win apiece already in 2023 as Red Bull looks to be the dominant force on the grid.
On current form, the duo is each other’s greatest rival in the drivers’ championship.
“It’s Round 2,” Horner scoffed when asked about the prospect of Red Bull employing team orders.
“We’ve got two very mature drivers, they’ve worked together and they’ve worked well together,” he added.
“Previously, we just discussed the race, and this scenario before the race and said, ‘Look, you’re free to race today but the rules of engagement are: team first and respect each other, respect the cars you’re driving’.
“We want to bring the maximum points and they’ve done that.”
The relationship between Verstappen and Perez hasn’t always been harmonious, with tensions emerging following last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
There, Perez had allowed this team-mate through on the understanding that, if he didn’t make progress, he would hand the spot back.
That did not happen. Instead, Verstappen responded angrily to his team on the radio.
It was claimed that flashpoint related to Perez’s crash during qualifying in Monaco earlier that season.
Verstappen appeared again to ignore the team’s instructions for his own gain in Saudi Arabia.
The Dutchman queried the fastest lap time but was instructed not to worry about the marker.
He did anyway, claiming the mantle and, with it, a world championship point.
“Of course, the team’s interest is to maximise the points and whatever point you feel that you may have a reliability issue then you obviously manage that,” Horner said.
“Inevitably, Max said on the radio that point for the fastest lap meant a great deal to him and there was no reason for us not to let either he or Checo have a crack at it.”
It was a point of contention for Perez.
The Mexican subsequently explained he was asked to drive to a lap time and not chase the bonus point.
Horner has countered that, suggesting both drivers were aware of the situation heading into the final lap.
The fastest lap proved decisive in the world championship standings with Verstappen now heading the competition by a single point.
Formula 1 heads to Melbourne this weekend for the Australian Grand Prix.
Verstappen retired from the event in 2022 while Perez finished second to Charles Leclerc.
Track action in Albert Park begins on Thursday, with F1 on track from Friday.
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