Red Bull facing F1 crisis amid astonishing cheating allegation

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are pictured on the F1 podium.
Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will have to work through tension that erupted at the Brazilian GP. (Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

Red Bull is facing a stern test of teamwork and sportsmanship at the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi after tensions between drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez erupted.

Verstappen, who secured back to back world championships earlier in the season, refused to allow Perez to pass him on the final lap for sixth place in the Brazilian GP, with Red Bull's second driver vying for second place behind the Dutchman in the drivers standings.

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Allowing his teammate past in Sao Paulo would have seen Perez claim a thin points lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc heading into the final round - however Verstappen's refusal means the two are even on points with one race to go.

When asked what happened by his race engineers after repeatedly ignoring clear instructions to let Perez by, Verstappen erupted.

“I told you already last time. You guys don’t ask that again to me, okay? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons, and I stand by it," he said over team radio.

Fans quickly went into overdrive speculating about what Verstappen's 'reasons' could have been, particularly after he was asked whether or not Perez's crash during qualifying at Monaco had anything to do with it.

Perez had spun during Verstappen's final chance to take pole in Monaco, leaving Ferrari with a 1-2 on the starting grid before Perez eventually won the race the next day.

Sensationally, Perez has been accused of crashing deliberately in qualifying by the Dutch press, which has also claimed the Mexican driver admitted as much to senior Red Bull staff, including team boss Christian Horner.

Verstappen has since declared he will do whatever is required to aid Perez in his fight for second in the championship in Abu Dhabi, but maintained he stood by his decision not to allow his teammate past.

"I have my reasons for that. We just discussed that, and I think it was better that we finally sat together and spoke about it, and just moved forward from here," he said.

“For sure, if we go to Abu Dhabi and he needs the points, because they’re tied, it’s not the end of the world, it’s all about who finishes ahead anyway. If he needs the help, I’ll be there.

“But it’s good that we talked about it now and basically cleared everything that was there why I didn’t do it.”

There's been another twist to the story, with Verstappen's mother, Sophia Kumpen, brought up the vision of Perez with another woman following his Monaco GP victory in a since-deleted Instagram comment.

Perez made a public apology in the days after the Monaco race, declaring he and wife Carola Martinez were 'stronger than ever' despite the awkward footage going public.

Red Bull facing another case of tension between F1 drivers

It's far from the first time Red Bull has been faced with simmering tension between its to star drivers, having also dealt with frosty relationships between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and later Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

Vettel and Webber had a number of memorable clashes during the German's incredible run to four successive F1 titles with the Australian as his teammate.

The infamous 'Multi 21' saga, in which Vettel ignored a team order to remain behind Webber to allow the Australian to secure victory at the 2013 Malaysian GP, was the flashpoint for Webber's eventual disillusionment with Red Bull.

The pair had an ignominious accident several years earlier at the 2010 Turkish GP, in which Vettel collided with Webber while challenging for the lead, putting both of them out of the race.

Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner and Mark Webber are pictured on the F1 podium for Red Bull in 2013.
Red Bull previously faced a crisis between its drivers when Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber weren't seeing eye to eye during the early 2010s. (Photo by Hoch Zwei/Corbis via Getty Images)

Eventually, Webber grew frustrated with what he believed was a clear balance of power in favour of Vettel, despite the insistence of Horner that they were on a level playing field.

Similar tension erupted at the team in 2018, Ricciardo's final season with the team, after he crashed into the back of Verstappen at the Azerbaijan GP.

Ricciardo revealed after moving to Renault in 2019 that he was unhappy with how the team had responded to the fiasco, believing Verstappen had ultimately been exonerated by the team as the attempted to steer the Dutchman to his first world championship - which wouldn't come until some three years later.

Perez remarked that Verstappen had 'shown who he really is' after crossing the line in Brazil - and it remains to be seen how fruitful the relationship will be going forward.

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