Mika Hakkinen reminds Max Verstappen: ‘The team always comes first’

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen on the grid. Sao Paulo November 2022.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen on the grid ahead of the race at Interlagos. Brazil November 2022.

In the fallout surrounding Max Verstappen refusing to follow team orders at Interlagos, Mika Hakkinen has stated his belief that “the team always comes first”, and will follow the situation between him and Sergio Perez with interest moving forward.

Perez was ordered to move aside for his team-mate for sixth place late in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with Verstappen charged with the task of overtaking Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc.

In failing to do so, however, he was then ordered to allow Perez back past him in time for the chequered flag, but the World Champion refused to do so.

“Don’t ask that again to me, okay? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it,” came the radio message from Verstappen when asked why he did not give way to his team-mate, and Perez was angered at not being given the place back – particularly with his battle for second position in the Drivers’ Championship with Charles Leclerc being a tight one.

Perez was particularly irked at Verstappen’s denial of team orders because of the times he has moved aside for his team-mate in the last two seasons, or being deployed to defend on his behalf in his title battle with Lewis Hamilton last season.

Perez said on radio himself that Verstappen’s conduct on Sunday “shows who he really is”, although Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the matter would be dealt with behind closed doors.

Regardless of Verstappen’s position as the lead driver at Red Bull, however, his fellow two-time World Champion Hakkinen thinks the Dutchman should have held up his end of the bargain at Interlagos.

“The team always comes first and if you have an agreement about how you and your team-mate work together it is always best to keep to that,” Hakkinen wrote in his post-race column for Unibet.

“None of us know the precise terms of Max’s agreement with Red Bull, but clearly he is the number one driver and in return he has brought them two world titles.

“However, Sergio has been a big help to Max at times and together they have won the teams’ championship this year, so it would be good to see Max help Sergio to finish second in the Drivers’ World Championship – particularly now Sergio and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are on equal points.

“I see Christian Horner has confirmed they have discussed the situation, shaken hands and are focusing on helping Sergio finish second in Abu Dhabi, so it will be interesting to see what happens.”

The season finale in Abu Dhabi is only days away and with Perez and Leclerc on equal points, Red Bull boss Horner insisted after Sao Paulo that Verstappen would do his bit to help his team-mate at the final race of the year.

But with battles still to be decided, Hakkinen is ready to see what the climax to the 2022 season will bring.

“I’m looking forward to the final race,” he wrote. “The battle for second place in both the Drivers’ and teams’ championships is still alive and it will be fascinating.

“Ferrari will want to beat Mercedes, Charles will want to beat Sergio, so there is still a lot at stake.”

Read more: Conclusions from George Russell’s ‘changing-of-the-guard’ win at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix