Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has rubbished suggestions team orders were used in the Belgian Grand Prix, saying his two Formula 1 drivers were free to race.
The squad's two drivers, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen started second and 14th, respectively on the Spa grid as the latter took an engine penalty - meaning he could not start from the pole position he had earned in Q3.
However, such as Verstappen's pace advantage over the entire field on the 4.4-mile circuit, he was quickly running in third place behind leader Carlos Sainz Jr and Perez.
On Lap 12, Sainz pitted, with Verstappen within DRS range of Perez - going onto take the lead before his own pitstop.
The World Champion would later repass Sainz for the lead and ease to a 17s victory over Perez with Sainz completing the podium dwellers.
Horner was adamant post race that Perez had not been told to move out of the way for Red Bull's lead driver.
No team orders for Red Bull
Red Bull have not been afraid to deploy team orders in F1 in the past, with perhaps Perez's defensive efforts against Lewis Hamilton in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a prime example - allowing Verstappen to recover to be in range to strike for the title.
Heading into the race, Verstappen enjoyed an 80 point lead Charles Leclerc, with Perez five further back, as he marches towards a second world crown.
"We discussed that [team orders] during the [pre-race] briefing - they were free to race," Horner told media including RacingNews365.com.
"We expected that they might meet in the last stint and then they would be free to race each other, provided they were respected."
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Horner shocked by Verstappen pace
Given Verstappen's pace advantage, team orders or not, he still would have passed Perez on-track, with Horner also saying he was shocked by just how much pace the #1 had.
"It is always difficult to make predictions in advance, but our simulations showed that Max would be somewhere around a podium place by his last pitstop," he explained.
"The fact that he was leading after 18 laps instead surpassed all our predictions.
"We chose to start on the Soft tyres, even though we didn't quite know how that would affect the car's performance [as] the temperatures were a lot higher.
"It was difficult, but we took the performance advantage we had in qualifying into the race."
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