Red Bull secured their second 1-2 finish of the 2022 F1 season at the Spanish Grand Prix with Max Verstappen once again finishing ahead of Sergio Perez.

As a result, Verstappen now leads the drivers’ championship ahead of Charles Leclerc, while Red Bull have taken the lead in the constructors’ at the expense of Ferrari. 

Despite it being another great victory for Verstappen, it was marred with some controversy as Perez was forced to move out of the way for his teammate. 

On Lap 46, Perez was ordered to hand Verstappen the lead of the race by race engineer Hugh Bird.

“Okay, you’re on a different strategy to Max. If he’s quicker, we let him through,” Bird said.

Perez replied: “That’s very unfair. But okay.”

Shortly after Perez surrendered the position before stopping again for another set of tyres to finish comfortably in second ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell.

“I’m happy for the team. But we need to speak later,” Perez said at the end of the race.

The Mexican’s frustration was understandable as any F1 driver wants to have a fair shot at the victory but at that stage of the race, Verstappen was around one-second per lap faster than his teammate so an overtake was a formality. 

“Especially at the beginning when I gave the position to Max thinking I was going to get it back later but then we swapped strategies,” Perez told Sky Sports after the race. “He went for the three [stop], I went for the two [stop]. It turned out to be a better strategy, the one he was on. It’s a bit frustrating from my side at the moment but at the end of the day, it’s a great team result. 

“We are now leading to the constructors’ so that’s something I am very pleased with. There are a few things that we will discuss internally what went on as when you’re driving you don’t understand much about the bigger picture. It’s just a normal thing. 

“I think the team momentum couldn’t be any better so it’s a great team, we are very united so we just need to discuss a few things internally, that’s it.”

Why Red Bull were right to use team orders

The race in Barcelona changed on its head on Lap 27 when race leader Charles Leclerc was forced to retire due to an engine issue from the lead of the race.

This presented Red Bull with an open goal that it could not afford to miss with their main rival out of the race and Carlos Sainz recovering from an earlier spin.

With Verstappen struggling with DRS issues, Red Bull converted him to a three-stop strategy while Perez was seemingly on a two.

As the race progressed and the strategies converged, Verstappen found himself 0.8-1.2s per lap quicker than his teammate, showing devastating pace on route to a second career victory at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Given the sweltering temperatures and their main rival out of the race, Red Bull’s priority was bringing both cars home, as team boss Christian Horner explained after the race.

“Our responsibility is to bring the cars home with as many points as we can,” Horner said. “And of course, what Checo couldn’t see at the time, and I think he will see perfectly well now is that he had such a long stint to do on that medium tyre and Max such a tyre advantage from a team perspective there is just no point in taking that risk with an intermittent DRS, with temperatures raging up and down so it was absolutely the right thing to do.”

Red Bull were sensible in their decision-making and even without team orders, Verstappen would have breezed past his teammate provided his DRS would have worked.

A help or a hindrance?

In some ways, Red Bull being forced to use team orders is a sign that Perez is doing the job required to earn himself a third year with the team.

With the RB18 being easier to drive compared to its snappy predecessor, Perez has enjoyed an upturn in performance, particularly on Saturdays, which is a welcome boost to Red Bull’s constructors’ chances.

While Perez did play an integral role in the Abu Dhabi finale in helping Verstappen against Lewis Hamilton, he was rarely a factor in the battles at the front.

Conversely, Mercedes were able to rely on Valtteri Bottas and thus his edge over Perez allowed the team to secure an eighth constructors’ championship.

The fact Red Bull have been pushed into team orders is a testament to Perez’s own improvement in performance, that he’s closer to Verstappen and the perfect partner for the reigning champion. 

Perez has already shown he’s willing to help and support his teammate, playing a crucial role last year and already this year with his compliance with team orders.

Red Bull are in a good position as Perez will be keen to keep Christian Horner and Helmut Marko happy to secure a new deal for 2023.

If Perez was to go rogue and start disobeying team orders, or creating too much friction in the team, Red Bull would be quick to find a replacement and the Mexican would be throwing away his only shot of driving for a race-winning team.

While team orders might be uncomfortable and frustrating for fans, all successful, championship-winning outfits deploy them.

Whether it was Ferrari with Michael Schumacher, Renault with Fernando Alonso or Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton - all of the aforementioned teams used team orders to benefit their star driver.

Verstappen is Red Bull’s star driver and he’s only going to benefit from any team orders or internal politics later in the season.