Christian Horner’s verdict on ‘tasty’ Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez Austria sprint clash

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen takes to the grass in battle with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez on the opening lap of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Max Verstappen takes to the grass in battle with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez on the opening lap of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes the “tasty” moment between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez on the opening lap of the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race was a simple misunderstanding.

After Red Bull secured a front-row lockout in Saturday morning’s sprint shootout, Perez took the lead from Verstappen at the first corner of the rain-affected sprint with the latter taking to the grass on the following straight as he fought to regain the position.

After racing side by side with his team-mate through Turn 3, Verstappen retook the position at Turn 4 by hanging Perez out to dry and allowing Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas to slip through into second.

Max Verstappen took to the grass in Sergio Perez battle

Perez eventually reclaimed the place to finish second as Verstappen won by a margin of 21 seconds.

The relationship between the Red Bull team-mates has been under close scrutiny since last year’s Sao Paulo GP, where Verstappen defied team orders and later indicated that the move was payback for an unspecified incident earlier in the season.

Both drivers expressed dismay with each other’s driving over team radio, but had a seemingly amicable conversation in parc ferme at the conclusion of the sprint.

And after Perez admitted to not seeing Verstappen in his mirrors on the long straight up to Turn 3, Horner believes that incident on the grass was caused by the dreary conditions at the start.

He told Sky Sports F1: “As they said they’ve spoken about it.

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“I think Checo had Max maybe unsighted there on the right-hand side, so thankfully they didn’t collect each other and a one-two finish is a great result for the team.”

Invited to clarify the rules of engagement within the Red Bull team, Horner said: “The rules are very fair: race hard but give each other space.”

Asked if he was satisfied those rules were adhered to on the first lap of the sprint race, he added: “One and three, yes. The bit in the middle was where it got a bit tasty but I think Checo maybe didn’t see Max.”

Horner’s comments come after he publicly criticised Perez following Friday’s qualifying session, where the Mexican failed to reach Q3 for the fourth race in succession after a number of track limits breaches as Verstappen claimed pole for Sunday’s grand prix.

“He’s got the pace today. He’s got a car that was easily capable of being on the first or second row,” Horner said on Friday.

“He was matching Max’s times. Stay in the white lines! It was strike one, strike two, Checo, just stay in the white lines! Strike three, and that was it.

“So, just hugely frustrating because he could have been there, he could have done it, so that’s the frustration. It’s fantastic that we got the pole, but it feels not complete.”

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