Max Verstappen has been tipped to copy Lewis Hamilton and change his stubborn ways to heed team orders. The Red Bull star was criticised during the Brazilian Grand Prix for failing to allow team-mate Sergio Perez passed him during the last lap despite the Mexican battling Charles Leclerc for second place in the standings and regularly sacrificing his own races to help the 25-year-old in the past.
Verstappen has been dominant in Formula One this season, setting the record for most races won in a single year as well as setting the standard for most points won over the course of a single campaign. The Dutchman secured the driver’s championship in Japan with four races to spare and there had been hopes within Red Bull that he would help Perez to secure second place to give the team a one-two.
However, it was not forthcoming in Interlagos with Verstappen refusing to let Perez past him on the final lap for sixth place. The episode was particularly galling for the 32-year-old as he had sacrificed his own races for his team-mate in the past, most notably in last year’s season ender where his ability to hold Hamilton back gave the Dutch driver the time he needed to change tyres in the late safety car period.
Now, one-time race winner Heikki Kovalainen has explained why, suggesting that great Formula One drivers are very single-minded. The Finn partnered Hamilton at McLaren and included his former team-mate in this assessment, despite conceding he had improved in recent years.
“Max obviously threw the team under the bus a little bit when he didn’t let Perez go, but in my opinion drivers like Max, when they’re so good and why they’re so good is that they’re stubborn and they are very strong and single-minded,” he told TalkSport. “When somebody is threatening them or does something they find unfair the reaction can be quite strong and quite dramatic as it was at the weekend.
“Sometimes with these great drivers it happens, [Ayrton] Senna was like that, [Michael] Schumacher was like that, [Fernando] Alonso too, [Lewis] Hamilton used to be like that but he’s one of the few to have grown out of it, he’s become a really good team player recently.
“Even in rally Colin McRae didn’t like team orders, Sebastien Ogier fell out with Sebastien Loeb, all these great drivers get into these controversies and I think it’s because they’re such strong characters and it’s part of what makes them so good, so in a way I can understand this reaction.
“I think Max will grow and will get better at it, will understand and see the bigger picture, but I don’t think it will be an issue in Abu Dhabi, it will be business as usual.”
It remains to be seen if Verstappen will help Perez this Sunday in the final race of the season, with the Mexican needing to beat Leclerc to claim second in the championship.