Mark Webber thinks Red Bull team orders in Sao Paulo Grand Prix took Max Verstappen by surprise

Mark Webber believes his former team Red Bull caught Max Verstappen off-guard with team instructions back at last year's Sao Paulo GP.

There we saw the first real bust-up between Verstappen and Sergio Perez as Red Bull drivers, the team asking Verstappen to yield P6 to Perez to help him in his quest of making it a Red Bull one-two in the Drivers' Championship. Verstappen refused and Perez was understandably irate after the race.

But, with Verstappen telling Red Bull that they knew his reasons for what he did, in the following days both the team and Perez said the issue had blown over and that it was one big happy camp once more.

And while Webber says hindsight is always a wonderful thing in Formula 1, he does feel that Red Bull caught Verstappen a little off-guard with their communication in that instance.

"Team principals are always managing dynamics between the drivers, and it is very easy to handle that when you're not battling for wins or championship position," said Webber on Speedcafe.com's KTM Summer Grill.

"For the top four or top five, there's generally no real friction between the drivers and management have an easier ride on it, [but it changes] when there's championships or championship positions at stake between the two drivers.

"The team principal goes on a journey too - they haven't got all the answers.

"In our day, it was the first experience of it for Christian [Horner, team principal], Sebastian [Vettel], myself and Red Bull itself. They were some challenging times, but that is the nature of the beast.

"In hindsight, there are decisions that you could do differently and better for the team or one driver in particular, but [F1] is great at hindsight.

"[The team] can't press the pause button in the middle of the race. The communication with Max in Brazil seemed to surprise him somewhat.

"It was dealt with internally post-race. Trying to talk to the driver with the helmet on in the last laps of the race to try and get the full picture of what was going on is not always easy.

"There are some things that should remain private within the teams."

This is a glaring question which the world of Formula 1 and Red Bull themselves will find the answer to in the coming months, as the 2023 season gets underway.

While Red Bull were preaching rediscovered unity after Brazil, we will not find out whether Perez is truly back on Verstappen's side until a race situation emerges where Red Bull ask Perez to play the team game, as they did do several times in 2021 and 2022.

Then it will become clear whether Perez is still willing to be that loyal deputy to the two-time World Champion.

Red Bull best hope so, as both Verstappen and Perez are predicating a sterner challenge for the 2023 titles than as seen in the year just gone, so Perez's support may well become pivotal for Verstappen and Red Bull once more, like it was in 2021, where Perez's security service did wonders for Verstappen against Lewis Hamilton, especially in Turkey and Abu Dhabi.

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