Max Verstappen has launched a vehement attack on his treatment by the media and on social platforms after the controversy of his refusal to follow team orders in Brazil. The world champion blamed the media for fuelling what he described as “unacceptable” and “disgusting” abuse towards him and his family on social channels since the race at Interlagos.
Speaking before this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Formula One’s season finale, Verstappen said the media had not understood what had transpired in Brazil yet he declined to give any detail of what had happened between himself, his teammate Sergio Pérez and his Red Bull team.
Verstappen had refused to obey a team order in Brazil to allow Pérez through to claim sixth place and an extra two points. Pérez is in a neck-and-neck battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for second in the title race with Red Bull eager to secure the place to claim their first one-two in the drivers’ championship.
Verstappen was criticised for not doing so but insisted he had reasons for his actions, believed to be his reaction to the claim that Pérez deliberately crashed out in Monaco earlier this year, preventing the Dutchman taking a shot at pole.
Verstappen, however, dismissed the reporting of what had happened in Brazil as unfair. “After that race, I looked very bad in the media. They didn’t have the clear picture,” he said. “They don’t know how I work within the team and what the team appreciates about me. So, all the things that I’ve read are pretty disgusting.
He went on to also condemn it as irresponsible. “A lot of people, what they have been writing about me is ridiculous,” he added. “At the end of the day you contribute to all the problems social media has by writing these kinds of things.
“They started attacking my family, they were threatening my sister and my mum, my girlfriend, my dad and for me, that goes way too far when you don’t have the facts of what actually was going on. And that definitely has to stop. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine, but don’t go after my family because that is just unacceptable.”
Red Bull issued a statement on Thursday condemning what they described as “death threats” and “hate mail and vitriol” aimed at team members and their families, intimating the team had been at fault rather than Verstappen. The 25-year-old insisted his actions had been misinterpreted and that he was being treated unfairly. “I am just a bit fed up with all this bullshit,” he said. “As soon as there is something negative, it needs to be highlighted. It is pretty sickening to be a part of all that when at the end of the day, I haven’t even done anything wrong.”
Verstappen was asked twice to put his side of events but declined to do so, instead apparently suggesting that without his insight the issue should have been dropped.
“We keep it between the team and myself,” he said. “You don’t know the real story. So, you don’t need to write the story.”
Red Bull’s attempt to ease the tension may also have only exacerbated interest in what happened. In their statement they said that “Max was only informed at the final corner of the request to give up position without all the necessary information being relayed”. However on-board footage shows he was first requested to let Pérez through at turn four and then three more times at the final corner.