Like a corpse being propped up to keep away evil spirits from the living, Sergio Perez has become the sacrificial corpse for Red Bull Racing. The Spanish Grand Prix underlined what little influence Perez has within the Red Bull team. That is to say, Perez has no influence at all. The Mexican is there to serve the Dutchman, Max Verstappen. Red Bull will make sacrificial decisions to allow Verstappen to win. It’s happened before, however, the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix laid bare the extent to which the Red Bull team is focused around one driver. The one driver is Max Verstappen.
Verstappen made an unforced error early in the race which punted him down the order. he recovered but had to contend with a DRS issue which meant he was stuck behind the Mercedes of George Russell. Charles Leclerc should have taken victory but his afternoon ended early as his Ferrari developed an unrecoverable engine issue.
Meanwhile, teammate Perez found himself in the lead midway through the race as Verstappen initially squabbled for second with George Russell. Verstappen used his second pitstop to undercut the Mercedes and then it was a straight fight for the lead between Perez and Verstappen.
But there was no fight. It was an orchestrated proceedure, Perez was obliged to move aside for Verstappen on lap 49 and that was that. A radio message revealed Perez was happy to obey the team, but there was no emotion, no joy in his response. At that point, Red Bull made it clear who is the number one within the team.
One can look at the Red Bull driver situation statistically and financially. Verstappen is always the faster driver and consistently finishes on the podium. But the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix demonstrated that he needed assistance after an unforced error.
Red Bull should have focused on Perez for the win and monitored Verstappen’s recovery. Additionally Red Bull changed Perez’s strategy to ensure Verstappen retained the lead. What happens if this situation repeats itself later on in the season?
Will Sergio Perez continue to obey team orders and move aside for Verstappen if he is leading a race? Don’t be surprised if Perez finally one day says enough is enough and disobeys team orders to take that win.