Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will apologize to their Red Bull Racing team for their crash in Azerbaijan, but both want to retain their freedom to race each other for the rest of the season.
Verstappen and Ricciardo spent much of the race battling each after the former sneaked past the latter at the Lap-6 safety car restart.
The fighting was fierce. The Australian appeared to be the quicker car, but he couldn’t find a way past his teammate’s staunch defense, the pair even dangerously banging wheels at turn one on Lap 12.
On lap 35 Ricciardo sealed the deal, but on laps 37 and 38 he and Verstappen made their sole pit stops, after which Verstappen emerged back in the lead of the intra-team battle.
It took two laps for Ricciardo to launch another move. He attempted to dummy Verstappen on the run down to the first turn to take the inside line, but as they sped into the braking zone Verstappen moved to the left, blocking his teammate’s path.
Ricciardo had nowhere to go, running into the back of the sister car and putting both out of the race.
Both drivers were handed their first reprimands of the season by the stewards for their roles in the crash. Three reprimands in a season earn a driver a 10-place grid penalty.
“I thought the gap was opening up on the inside, and once I was there I had to commit to that,” Ricciardo explained. “It’s a tough one. I’ll let you guys and the fans have their comments.
“We did get close a few times in the race, already touching and that. Sometimes we were on the limit, and then unfortunately it’s ended how it did.”
Verstappen similarly refused to weigh into the debate on who was to blame.
“I don’t think we need to speak about who is at fault because at the end of the day we are racing for a team and representing other people,” he said. “When this happens, it is just not good enough for both of us.
“I think before that it was hard racing but fair and we gave each other space. We had a little brush with the wheels; I think in racing that can happen.
“What happened of course is not good. This has happened before [elsewhere] and I think you learn from it, and I think of course we have to make sure it does not happen again.”
Both drivers clung fast to the Red Bull Racing party line, both clearly chastened by what must have been an extremely stern behind-closed-doors dressing down by team management.
“We’re thankful that we’re allowed to race,” Ricciardo said. “I think myself and Max love to race, as we show, so that’s cool.
“It’s more just about saying sorry to the team and trying to just apologize the best way we can. We just don’t want to be in that situation.”
Verstappen likewise apologized to the team, and the Dutchman hoped he and Ricciardo won’t be banned from racing each other as punishment.
“We will speak with the team as well on what we will do in the future. I don’t think letting us not race anymore is the way forward, but of course we will talk about it and see what happens.”
Team principal Christian Horner, speaking to Sky Sports F1, wouldn’t pin the blame on either driver, instead emphazising his disappointment that the team had lost a healthy points haul.
“The drivers at the end of the day drive for a team and they both recognize they screwed up today and will be apologizing to all members of the team, because it is a team sport. That seemed to get forgotten about,” he fumed.
“Not apportioning blame one way or another to either driver. They’re both to blame for this, and it’s the team unfortunately that misses out.”
But Horner stopped short of instituting team orders.
“We don’t want to interfere in letting them go wheel to wheel, and they’ve been very good at that up to this point,” he said.
“What we’ve always said is, ‘Give each other room on track, we’ll let you race, and they’ve just about done that … until that unfortunate incident.
“Our intention is to continue racing, but they’ve got to show the team and each other respect and leave space.”