Jolyon Palmer believes Red Bull made things “unnecessarily complicated” by implementing team orders between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in Spain at the weekend.
Perez had been told by his race engineer to not hold Verstappen up on his fresher tyres in the latter stages of the race, in which Red Bull were the only team fighting for victory after Charles Leclerc’s retirement halfway through proceedings.
But Perez had been leading the race on his own merit, which led him to call for talks within the team to account for the “very unfair” outcome of him having to move aside for his team-mate.
It’s likely that Verstappen would have passed Perez for the victory on track given the rate at which he was reeling in the sister Red Bull, but the team made it clear to him to not make life difficult for the World Champion.
Palmer is unsure why Red Bull felt this had to happen, given the clear extra speed Verstappen had at that point in the race anyway.
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“I’m not sure the team needed to revert to team orders in Spain though, and certainly not as early as they called it on Sunday. It might have made their life unnecessarily complicated,” Palmer wrote in his post-race Formula1.com column.
“Verstappen’s pace advantage after his third stop was such that I think he could have made an easy enough, but legitimate, pass on Perez anyway just with the tyre advantage he had, similar to what we saw with three-stopping Sainz and Hamilton cruising past the two-stopping Bottas late on.
“Verstappen was having DRS woes early on in the race but seemed to be more on top of them by half distance.
“If Verstappen still didn’t have DRS available, then perhaps team orders would be more justified because it would be Red Bull’s own reliability woes holding Verstappen back from an inevitable pass for the win.
“In the past, team orders would be called as well because of some imminent threat in the Grand Prix and the risk of squabbling drivers losing time to fast cars around them.
“But by the time they were in play in the final stages on Sunday, the threats were no more. Leclerc was out and Russell was dropping quickly out of the picture.”
Perez took the bonus point for the fastest lap of the race after eventually stopping for a third time, while Verstappen went on to win and take the lead of the Drivers’ Championship.
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