Online threats and abuse have been directed at the world champion and his family after Max Verstappen and Red Bull ignored team orders at last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen defied his team’s orders to let team-mate Sergio Perez go on the final lap of the race in Brazil. Perez said he had previously allowed the Dutchman to overtake on his understanding that his position in the race would come back.
“I was asked to leave him, I wanted to go back to the position,” Perez told Sky Sports at the weekend.
Double F1 world champion Verstappen addressed the controversy on Thursday, saying: “I definitely felt bad in the media after that race.
But they didn’t have a clear picture either. It’s pretty ridiculous to immediately put me down like that. They don’t know how I work within the team and what the team appreciates about me. All the stuff I’ve read is pretty damning.”
He added that on social media, people “started attacking my family.”
“They were threatening my sister, my mother, my girlfriend, my father. And for me that goes a long way. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine. But don’t go after my family because that’s just unacceptable.
“When your own sister writes to you that it’s getting too much and you have to do something about it, I think that says enough,” she adds. “And then it comes down to 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 have to deal with with depressing regularity. There is no space and we have to do and be better.
“At the end of the day it’s a sport, we’re here to race. Death threats, hate mail, abuse of extended family members is sad. We value inclusion and want a safe place for everyone to work and enjoy our sport. The abuse must stop.”
Verstappen also addressed the controversy surrounding the weekend’s race
“It wasn’t about position … it was something that happened earlier in the season,” he said Thursday.
“I already explained that Mexico and the team understood and agreed.
“We went to Brazil and I thought we were just going to race and try to get the best possible result. There was a bit of miscommunication between us on Saturday and Sunday, I wasn’t told anything about a possible swap.”
Red Bull acknowledged that the situation was not handled appropriately and added in its statement that the issue has been addressed privately.
“As a team we made some mistakes in Brazil. We did not foresee the situation that unfolded on the last lap and we did not agree on a strategy for such a situation before the race,” the team said.
It added that Verstappen was only asked to relinquish position in the final corner “without relaying all the necessary information.”
“This has put Max, who has always been an open and fair team player, in a compromising situation with little time to react that was not our intention,” the statement continued.
“Max spoke openly and honestly following the race, allowing both drivers to address any outstanding issues or concerns. The team acknowledged Max’s reasoning, saying the conversation was a personal matter that would remain private within the team and no further comment would be made.
Perez told Sky Sports that the matter had been discussed internally, adding “we are ready to move forward as a team.”