David Coulthard: If Sergio Perez doesn’t like it, then he can leave the team

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, scratching head next to Sergio Perez. Suzuka October 2022.

Max Verstappen scratching head next to Sergio Perez after the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka October 2022.

David Coulthard has no problem with Max Verstappen refusing to yield a position to Sergio Perez, saying Red Bull asked, he refused, and it’s as simple as that.

Red Bull found themselves in the midst of yet more drama at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix when Verstappen blatantly refused a team order to give a position to Sergio Perez.

Asked on the final lap of the race to yield P6 to the Mexican driver, who is fighting for second place in the Drivers’ standings, he ignored the team.

After crossing the line, he then spoke: “I told you already last summer, guys, don’t ask that again to me. Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons, and I stand by it.”

Perez was fuming, saying: “This shows who he really is.”

However, former F1 driver Coulthard believes the blame for all this belongs to Red Bull.

The Scot told Mirror Sport: “It was an open conversation and there’s nothing to be interpreted – the team made a request, and the driver denied it.

“The answer was there before, and someone has come knocking again to try to get a different answer.

“Being consistent in your behaviour patterns is a quality – inconsistency is what you need to watch out for, because you don’t know what you’re dealing with.”

He added that Perez should be grateful to Red Bull for even giving him a chance, the team handing him a Formula 1 lifeline after he was dropped by Racing Point.

“Checo was out of Formula 1 with no one knocking on his door,” he said. “Red Bull gave him the opportunity to come back, and a car that’s nailed on to win races.

“He’s had a fair crack of the whip to try to beat Max, and he has consistently not delivered on the same level. He has occasionally done so, and I admire the victories he has had.”

Coulthard remembers his own team order debate

Coulthard reckons a driver needs to understand his place within a team.

Prior to joining in 1996 he was offered a contract with Ferrari but it was one that “stipulated” he’d have to yield to Ferrari’s star driver Michael Schumacher.

He opted against that, wanting a level playing field with his team-mate, only to find himself second to Mika Hakkinen at McLaren.

Conceding that the Finn was the driver who was quicker and could fight for the title, Coulthard accepted team orders when they came into play.

“I was offered a contract with Ferrari before I joined McLaren, and it stipulated that if I was running third and Michael Schumacher fourth, I would be told to move over,” he recalled.

“I couldn’t bring myself to sign a contract which would mean I’d have to move over all the time, and with McLaren there was an equal opportunity. Then I found out that Mika Hakkinen was the guy that would win two World Championships and I didn’t, because he was quicker and he deserved those titles.

“The reason I took the team orders when I was told to move over for Mika was that I had one other choice, which was to leave. I had no other choice of anywhere else to go, so I chose the path which gave me a car and the opportunity to perform.”

Perez can accept, or Perez can leave

The 51-year-old says Perez now has a choice, he can accept that he’s number two or he can leave.

“If Checo doesn’t like it, then he can leave the team,” he continued, “but where is he going? So, for me, it’s just another one of those sporting decisions.

“You’ll never change the minds of those who feel Lewis Hamilton was robbed [of the world title] in Abu Dhabi last year, any more than they will give credit to Max for winning the championship, and vice versa. It was just one of those moments that comes and goes, and the teams will handle it.

“The reality is that Max is one of the elite drivers in the world. Elite drivers like the Schumachers and Sennas didn’t pass through their career without examples of stand-offs and disagreements with their teams.

“That’s part of their DNA and part of what makes them successful. To use a line from Jerry Maguire, ‘it’s not show friends, it’s showbusiness’.”

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