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Red Bull controversy proves entirely meaningless

Max Verstappen ignoring team orders at the end of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix ended up not affecting Sergio Perez’s spot in the final 2022 Formula 1 standings.

The biggest talking point following the 2022 Formula 1 season’s penultimate race at Interlagos Circuit was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen not giving up sixth place to teammate Sergio Perez on the final lap, despite having been instructed to do so.

Verstappen, who had already clinched his second consecutive world title more than one month prior, was instructed to give up the spot because of Perez’s ongoing battle for second place in the driver standings with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Perez ultimately finished in seventh place and expressed dismay with the outcome, while Verstappen claimed he had his reasons, reasons which had apparently already been discussed with the team internally, for not letting his teammate pass him.

It meant that Perez and Leclerc entered the season finale at Yas Marina Circuit level on points. Leclerc owned the tiebreaker, having won three of the season’s first 21 races. Perez had won two.

As they say, every point counts, but at the end of the season, the “controversy” ended up meaning absolutely nothing.

Had Perez been able to pass Verstappen at the end of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, he would have been two points ahead of Leclerc heading into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In Abu Dhabi, Leclerc finished in second place ahead of Perez in third, meaning he outscored him by three.

While it may contradict the low-hanging fruit of a narrative which the media have been peddling for the last week or so, three is a larger number than two.

Ironically, it was a Ferrari team that had been criticized for poor strategy decisions throughout the season which executed a successful one-stop strategy with Leclerc to keep Perez behind him on a two-stop strategy.

Perez outqualified Leclerc in Abu Dhabi, taking second on the grid ahead of Leclerc in third, and Red Bull went on the offensive with a two-stop strategy. Leclerc was told to do the opposite of Perez, and he ultimately made it work on just one stop. A hard-charging Perez simply ran out of laps at the end of the race.

It was later revealed that Leclerc was always committed to a one-stop strategy and that the radio message to him to do the opposite of what Perez did was somewhat of a “dummy” message. Despite all of Ferrari’s strategy shortcomings in 2022, it worked.

So even if Perez had been given the spot in Sao Paulo, he would have fallen short.

He would have finished one point behind Leclerc, and there was no window for Red Bull to potentially pit him for the fastest lap to gain that point either. And even if there had been a gap for them to do so without Perez losing any ground, the tiebreaker still would have gone to Leclerc.

But as you would expect, there are those who continue to beat a dead horse, as is generally the case when it comes to overhyped “storylines” intended to do nothing more than stir the pot on social media.

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sixty three  ⁄    =  seven