Former F1 team principal Eddie Jordan believes Max Verstappen was looking to save face by “concocting” a return of the driveshaft issue that ended his qualifying in Saudi Arabia, while trailing team-mate Sergio Perez.
Verstappen started the race 15th on the grid after his driveshaft failed during Q2 around Jeddah, and had made his way back through the field into second place during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but was unable to reel in his Red Bull colleague in the closing stages.
He was able to take the bonus point for fastest lap away from Perez on the final tour of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, much to the annoyance of his team-mate, but the Mexican was able to keep the two-time World Champion at arm’s length in the final laps.
Verstappen came onto his team radio to report a vibration in his RB19 similar to the one he experienced during qualifying, with Perez able to match his lap times despite the Dutchman driving faster than the time delta given to him by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.
But given Perez held the advantage of track position, and having taken pole position in Verstappen’s absence on the Saturday, Jordan theorised that the double World Champion was told that he would have to hold station behind his team-mate and would not be allowed to close him down – as, having owned a team himself, he would have done the same in team boss Christian Horner’s position.
“I think that Max concocted something about a driveshaft so as to make himself look good,” Jordan stated on the Formula For Success podcast, “because I’m absolutely convinced he was told before he went out, if Checo was leading the race, and he’s been on pole position, you have not [got] ability and you have not got permission to pass him.
“That’s just my view. Because if I was running a team, that is exactly what I would have said before they went out.
“You don’t have to be Einstein to work it out. Max, in my opinion, found a decent excuse, which was the driveshaft.
“Christian Horner comes out and tells us: ‘No matter what we did, we went back to the base, we went and looked at all of the data and we looked at everything, we couldn’t find anything.’
“Guys, come on. There’s enough in this to realise that we don’t want to be bull*******. This was a situation where Max managed the position to hold his face while still taking second place.”
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Jordan’s podcast co-presenter and 13-time F1 race winner David Coulthard disagreed, however, believing that what Verstappen was saying should be taken at face value – given how he rarely filters his feelings in public.
And on the fastest lap point, he pointed to the 2021 title battle as proof of how every point counts in Formula 1.
“I think Max is so much heart on sleeve, that he doesn’t concoct anything, what you see is what you get,” Coulthard retorted.
“A little bit like when he was on the radio saying ‘what’s the fastest lap?’ And they said, ‘don’t think about that.’ And he’s like, ‘well, I am.’
“He remembers very well, he went into the final race of the World Championship in 2021 [on] equal points with Lewis Hamilton, and they were equal to the half point because of half points being awarded earlier in the year. So that one point for fastest lap could make the difference later in the year because clearly, these cars are very close to the edge.
“So I hear you, EJ, and I know you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the team principals and those that control Formula 1, but I think Max, when he says it, he means that. If he doesn’t say it, it’s because he doesn’t think it.”
But when Coulthard was further challenged by Jordan on the issue and was asked to describe what he would do in the team principal’s chair, the former Red Bull driver explained that it would be a “very big ask” to try and enforce team orders on Verstappen, given how events played out the last time it happened at Interlagos last season – when he refused to move aside for Perez on the final lap for sixth place.
“Well, I would want them not to race for risk of damaging the cars because it’s an easy one-two and it’s early in the season,” he elaborated.
“The drivers are highly paid employees of the race team, so it’s not unreasonable for the team to give instructions from time to time.
“But you’ve got a double World Champion, you’ve got someone that without him, you would not have won those two World Championships.
“I think that is a very big ask to go on the radio, as they found out in Brazil last year, and ask Max not to do something, you know, you’re taking away the very DNA that makes him so great.”