ABU DHABI – Double Formula One world champion Max Verstappen said he and his family had suffered online threats and abuse after he ignored team orders in Brazil last weekend, and blamed the media for making him look bad.
The Red Bull driver assured reporters on Thursday he was a team player, and said he had a great relationship with Mexican teammate Sergio Perez, but the critics did not know the full story.
Despite saying he hoped they would one day know the details, he still refused to provide them ahead of the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen refused to help Mexican Perez at Interlagos by giving back a place late in the race when they were running sixth and seventh.
The Dutch 25-year-old had nothing to gain or lose, having wrapped up his second title in Japan last month, while Perez is fighting Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for second place overall.
Red Bull, who have clinched the constructors’ championship, have never finished a season with their drivers first and second and had asked Verstappen to let Perez pass after the Mexican earlier let him through in a failed chase for fifth.
“It wasn’t about the position... it was about something that happened earlier in the season,” Verstappen said on Thursday, amid speculation – which he would not confirm – that he was referring to the Monaco Grand Prix won by Perez.
“I already explained that in Mexico and the team understood and agreed.
“We went to Brazil and I just thought we were just going to race and try to get the best possible result. We had a bit of a miscommunication on Saturday and Sunday, nothing had been said to me about a potential swop.”
Verstappen said the team should have known what his response would be when the matter was raised on the last lap, but everything had now been talked through and resolved.
“After that race, of course I looked very bad in the media,” he said.
“But also they didn’t have the clear picture. To immediately put me down like that is pretty ridiculous. They don’t know how I work within the team and what the team appreciates about me. All the things that I’ve read are pretty disgusting.
“Even more than that, they (social media) started attacking my family.
“They were threatening my sister, my mum, my girlfriend, my dad. And for me, that goes way too far. If you have a problem with me, that’s fine. But don’t go after my family because that is just unacceptable.
“When your own sister writes to you that it’s getting way too much and you have to do something about it, I think that says enough,” he added.
“And then it does get to me because you cannot attack my family.”
Red Bull spoke in a statement of death threats, hate mail and vitriol and said the abuse had to stop.
Perez, who said on Sunday Verstappen had shown “who he really is”, denied crashing deliberately in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix in May and said that race had not been discussed in the talks after Brazil. REUTERS