Max Verstappen and Red Bull have fought back online threats and abuse against the world champion and his family after he ignored team orders at last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen refused his team’s instruction to allow a teammate Sergio Perez on the final lap of the race in Brazil. Perez said he previously allowed the Dutchman to overtake if he expected his position to be returned in the race.
“I was told to let him pass, that I would get the position back,” Perez told Sky Sports over the weekend, after previously saying Verstappen’s actions showed “who he really is”.
Addressing the controversy on Thursday, two-time F1 World Champion Verstappen said: “Obviously after that race I looked very bad in the media.
“But they didn’t have a clear picture either. Putting me down like that right away is pretty ridiculous. They don’t know how I work in a team and what the team appreciates about me. Everything I’ve read is pretty disgusting.”
He added that people on social media “started attacking my family.”
“They threatened my sister, my mother, my girlfriend, my father. And that’s going too far for me. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine. But don’t go after my family because that’s just unacceptable.
“If your own sister texts you that it’s getting way too much and you need to do something about it, I think that says enough,” he added. “And then it hits me because you can’t attack my family.”
Red Bull addressed the comments in a statement on Thursday, saying: “The abusive online behavior towards Max, Checo, the team and their respective families is shocking and saddening and unfortunately something we as a sport grapple with with depressing regularity have to. There is no place for that in racing or in society as a whole and we have to do it and get better.
“Ultimately this is a sport, we are here to race. Death threats, hate mail, hatred towards extended family members are unfortunate. We value inclusion and want a safe place where everyone can work and enjoy our sport. The abuse has to stop.”
Verstappen also addressed the controversy surrounding the weekend’s race
“It wasn’t about the position… It was about something that happened earlier in the season,” he said Thursday.
“I already explained that in Mexico and the team understood and agreed.
“We went to Brazil and I just thought we would just race and try to get the best possible result. We had a little misunderstanding on Saturday and Sunday, I was not told about a possible swap.”
Red Bull admitted the situation had not been handled appropriately, adding in its statement that the issue had been resolved privately.
“As a team we made some mistakes in Brazil. We hadn’t foreseen the situation that played out on the last lap and we hadn’t agreed on a strategy for such a scenario before the race,” the team said.
It added that Verstappen was only asked to give up the position in the last corner “without all the necessary information being passed on”.
“This put Max, who has always been an open and fair team player, in a compromising situation with little time to react, which was not our intention,” the statement continued.
“After the race, Max spoke openly and honestly, allowing both riders to resolve any outstanding issues or concerns. The team accepts Max’s reasoning, the conversation was a personal matter which remains private between the team and no further comment will be made.”
Perez said Sky Sports said the issue had been discussed internally, adding: “We are ready to continue as a team.”