Max Verstappen’s refusal to follow Toro Rosso’s team order for him to let teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. pass has been vindicated after the fact. Not only was Sainz not anywhere close to Verstappen’s car, but both team principal Franz Tost and Verstappen’s dad and ex-Formula One driver Jos Verstappen say Max made the right call.
At the time, the team believed that Sainz had the best opportunity to pass Sergio Perez for seventh place in the last few laps of the race, as Sainz was on fresher tires than Verstappen. Sainz wasn’t exactly gunning for the pass, although he did later admit in post-race remarks that he was holding back in the interest of sparing the team’s equipment and because he thought Verstappen would let him back by. Meanwhile, Verstappen had a beast of a drive up to eighth place after being a lap down earlier in the race.
When ESPN asked if Verstappen’s famous father Jos had agreed with him in refusing to back off for Sainz to pass, Sainz replied, “Yep, he told me if I had let him past he would have kicked me in the nuts!”
Now that’s some fatherly love right there.
Verstappen explained his decision to defy the team order to ESPN as such:
First of all, if you’re one lap down and you manage to be back in the points as the leading Toro Rosso, then for me there is no reason to switch positions. With Checo [Perez], we couldn’t have got past because his top speed was unbelievable.
After the second time I made it quite clear I didn’t want to do it, and at the end they told me it was the right decision ... It’s quite clear, if you are on different strategies then you let him go, but we were on the same strategy.
Admittedly, I don’t mind team orders as much as many F1 fans, but Verstappen’s reasoning makes sense. Why would you back off when there’s no one right on your tail, actively trying to pass? That would have hurt both of the team’s chances at catching up to Perez in seventh place.
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost also backed up Verstappen’s decision after the race. Tost explained to Autosport, as republished on Racer:
The team wanted to swap positions because we thought Carlos was faster with the new tires, but this was not the case, he could not catch up.
He was too far away, so Max said no, and he was right. I said over the intercom if Carlos is not close then it makes no sense to swap positions because he would never get Perez, as he is too far behind.
Max was right because Carlos was simply too far away, between three and five tenths behind. You have to catch up, and he [Sainz] should have shown at first he was capable of overtaking Max before then trying to catch Perez.
Something went wrong when the team made that call, then. It was just a garbage call, and it’s somewhat of a relief for folks to be saying Max was in the right. He’s just starting his F1 career, for Pete’s sake, and the dude can actually drive. Going against a bad call shouldn’t be held against him this early on.
Verstappen told ESPN that he’d spoken with Sainz after the race and believes that there are no hard feelings.
Fortunately for Max, he hasn’t gotten a kick in the balls, either.
[Edit: I remembered this incident a bit wrong, and originally said Sainz wasn’t even close. Several of you posted the video that shows Sainz right behind Verstappen. Thank you! I’ve revised that line accordingly. H/T stillthrottledown for the post-race remarks as well.]
Photo credit: Getty Images
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