ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Formula One champion Max Verstappen says he has resolved a conflict involving Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and is prepared to help him at the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen refused a team order to let Perez through for sixth place at the Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday and said on Thursday his reasons will “stay between myself and the team.”
“It was about something that happened earlier in the season, and I already explained that (at the previous race in) Mexico, and the team understood and agreed,” he said.
“Nothing had been said to me about a potential swap” of the positions in advance in Brazil, he said. “I think they should have known my response already from what had been said the week before.”
Since then, Red Bull has held talks to clear the air between the drivers, Verstappen said.
He has long since wrapped up his second world championship (as well as the F1 victory record) and Red Bull has sealed the constructors’ title. The team wants to earn second place in the standings for Perez ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Verstappen indicated he would be willing to help in Sunday’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
“As a team we have never finished first and second. So if we could achieve that, that would be amazing,” Verstappen said “And, for sure, if the opportunity is there to help, as a team, you know, we’re going to do that.”
Red Bull defended Verstappen as “an open and fair team player.”
“As a team we made some mistakes in Brazil,” Red Bull said in a statement.
Statement from @redbullracing #F1. pic.twitter.com/hNxHBoUOKa
— Jennie Gow (@JennieGow) November 17, 2022
“We had not envisaged the situation that unfolded on the last lap, and we had not agreed a strategy for such a scenario before the race.
“Regretfully, Max was only informed at the final corner of the request to give up position without all the necessary information being relayed. 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.”
Red Bull said it accepts “Max’s reasoning” about the incident and condemned abusive comments on social media aimed at both drivers, their family members and the team.
“Death threats, hate mail, vitriol towards extended family members is deplorable,” Red Bull added. “We value inclusion and want a safe space for everyone to work in and enjoy our sport. The abuse needs to stop.”
Asked if abuse ever led him to question his future in F1, Verstappen said: “It’s not only related to that, to be honest, but I won’t be here when I’m 40, that’s for sure.”
Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher, is out at Haas, and Nico Hulkenberg will return to the grid full time next season in his place.
“I would like to thank Mick Schumacher for his contribution to the team over the past couple of years,” Haas team principal Gunther Steiner said in a statement. “Mick’s pedigree in the junior categories was well known and he has continued to grow and develop as a driver in his time with Haas F1 Team. While choosing to go in separate directions for the future the entire team wishes Mick well for the next steps in his career path and beyond.”
Minutes after the announcement was made, Schumacher tweeted that he was disappointed with the decision but hoped to soon return to Formula 1.
“It was at times bumpy but I steadily improved, learned a lot and now know for sure that I deserve a place in Formula One,” Schumacher said. “The subject is anything but closed for me. Setbacks only make you stronger.”
— Mick Schumacher (@SchumacherMick) November 17, 2022
The announcement regarding the last undecided seat on F1’s 2023 grid was hardly a surprise as Gene Haas told The Associated Press in October that Schumacher needed to score points in the final four races of the season to keep his job.
“Mick’s future is going to be decided by Mick. If he wants to stay with us, he’s got to show us that he can score some more points. That’s what we are waiting for,” Haas told The AP. “I think Mick has got a lot of potential, but you know he costs a fortune and he’s wrecked a lot of cars that have cost us a lot of money that we just don’t have.
“Now, if you bring us some points, and you are (Max) Verstappen and you wreck cars, we’ll deal with it. But when you are in the back and you wreck cars, that’s very difficult.”
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 17, 2022
In the three races since Haas made clear the job requirements, the 23-year-old German has failed to score any points with a best finish of 13th last week in Brazil. Schumacher missed the second race of the season after a brief hospitalization following a crash in Saudi Arabia, and with 12 points scored this season ranks 17th of the 20 full-time drivers.
In two seasons with Haas, where Schumacher was placed by the Ferrari Driver Academy, Schumacher has yet to live up to the hype set by his father’s legacy. He and fellow rookie Nikita Mazepin combined for the worst team on the F1 grid last season, and he’s been outrun all year by Kevin Magnussen, who was brought back to the team when Mazepin was fired following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Haas, the only American-owned team on the F1 grid, has a technical alliance with Ferrari, and Schumacher’s contract with the Driver Academy is up after Sunday’s season finale at Abu Dhabi – removing any obligation on Haas to keep Schumacher in the car.
Schumacher could land in a reserve role with Mercedes – a job Australian Daniel Ricciardo is also chasing – and Esteban Ocon had pushed for Schumacher to get the open Alpine seat before it went to Pierre Gasly.
Mercedes head Toto Wolff admitted the team has interest in the young German after last week’s race.
“I don’t know what the status is with Mick and Haas,” Wolff said after the Brazilian Grand Prix. “But I make no secret of the fact that the Schumacher family belongs with us and that we value Mick very highly.”
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel is retiring after Sunday’s race and Schumacher is out, which put F1 in jeopardy of not having a German driver on the grid next season. But Haas replaced one German with another in Hulkenberg, a veteran of 181 F1 starts.
Very happy to move into a full-time drive with @HaasF1Team in 2023. I feel like I never really left Formula One and I am excited to get the opportunity to do what I love the most again. I want to thank Gene & Günther for their trust! pic.twitter.com/47cBbm1YJl
— Nico Hülkenberg (@HulkHulkenberg) November 17, 2022
Hulkenberg last raced a full season in 2019 with Renault, then was a substitute driver for two races in 2020 and another two races this year. He was a fill-in this year for Vettel, who missed the first two races of the season with COVID-19, and Hulkenberg finished 12th in Saudi Arabia.
Hulkenberg, who is 35, scored a pole in his 2010 rookie season but has never had a podium finish in F1.
“I’m very happy to move into a fulltime race seat with Haas F1 Team in 2023,” Hulkenberg said in a team statement. “I feel like I never really left Formula 1. I’m excited to have the opportunity to do what I love the most again and want to thank Gene Haas and Gunther Steiner for their trust. “