Max Verstappen hits out at 'sickening' criticism and abuse

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Max Verstappen has hit out at the media for stories written about him after the Brazilian Grand Prix and branded the social media abuse he and his family received in the aftermath "disgusting."

Verstappen, who won the 2022 title in October, did not obey a team order from Red Bull to let Sergio Perez pass on the final lap, which would have helped the Mexican driver's bid for second in the championship.

Verstappen later explained that he refused because of an incident from earlier in the season, although no further details were given.

Red Bull put out a statement Thursday, shortly before Verstappen faced the press, outlining that its own mistakes had led to the team orders controversy and that it had not properly communicated with the Dutchman until the final lap.

The two-time world champion is upset at the criticism he received.

"After that race, I looked very bad in the media," Verstappen said in a news conference ahead of Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. "But they didn't have the clear picture.

"To immediately put me down like that is ridiculous, to be honest, because they don't know how I work within the team and what the team appreciates about me."

Speaking of the discussions with Red Bull and Perez after the race, he said: "We had some good discussions, we put everything on the table and everything has been solved. In hindsight we should have had that conversation earlier because I've never been a bad teammate. I have always been very helpful. The team knows that -- I always put the team up front because at the end of the day it is a team effort."

The refusal to follow the team order was, according to Dutch media, down to Verstappen's belief that Perez intentionally crashed during qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix in May to ensure he started ahead.

Dutch press has reported that Perez admitted doing so a few weeks later. In his own press conference Thursday, Perez categorically denied both claims.

Perez and Red Bull have both said Monaco did not come up in the meeting which followed the Brazil race.

On Thursday Verstappen was given multiple opportunities to explain the incident he was referring to, but he declined to do so.

"We keep it between the team and myself," Verstappen said. "[The media] don't know the real story, so you don't need to write the story.

"I'm just a bit fed up with all this bulls--- just going around all the time. As soon as there's something negative, it needs to be highlighted. It's pretty sickening to be honest, being part of all that. At the end of the day I haven't done anything wrong, people just misunderstood what was going on."

Verstappen suggested that the media coverage of the event fueled the abuse aimed at him and his family over the past week.

He added: "It's just incredibly disappointing that, without knowing the full facts, that people write so many bad things straight away.

"I don't know why that is but at the end of the day you contribute to the problems social media has, by writing these things. The team knows how I work with them and I've always been good to the team."

The topic of social media abuse is becoming an increasingly concerning for Formula One. FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem recently warned that online abuse could destroy F1 if left unchecked.

Red Bull's Thursday statement had also condemned the abuse the Verstappens received.

"All the things I've read are pretty disgusting," Verstappen said. "They've started attacking my family, they threatened my sister, my mum, my girlfriend, and my dad.

"And for me that goes way too far when you don't have the facts of what's actually going on and for me that definitely has to stop. If you have a problem with me that's fine, but don't go after my family because that is just unacceptable.

"I just don't understand when people don't have the full picture to start attacking me like that. I hope one day they actually understand what was going on, because it's just unacceptable behaviour. Also in this paddock, to be honest. Not only fans but a lot of people, what they have been writing about me is ridiculous."

When asked if he is able to shut out what people write on social media, the reigning champion said: "Well, when your own sister writes to you that it's getting too much and you need to do something about it, I think that says enough. And yes, it does get to me, because you cannot attack my family."

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the final race of the 2022 F1 season. Verstappen has had a record-breaking year, winning 14 races.