Christian Horner has explained why Sergio Perez was told not to fight with Max Verstappen during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, despite the promise of equal opportunities for his Red Bull drivers.
With both Ferrari cars out of the race, the team were heading for their third 1-2 finish of the season – as well as their fifth Grand Prix win in a row – in Baku.
Perez was leading the race, after moving past Charles Leclerc on Lap 1, with Verstappen hot on his tail.
However, the Mexican driver was then told not to battle with his teammate, who then passed him with ease before cruising to a comfortable victory.
The call came after Perez was assured that he will be allowed to fight Verstappen for the World Championship in 2022, having recently signed a new contract with the Milton Keynes squad.
It is the second time this season that Perez has been asked not to battle the Dutchman, despite having now moved up into second in the Drivers' standings.
Red Bull were keen to avoid 2018 repeat
The result of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has increased the points gap between Verstappen and Perez to 21, but Horner says that Verstappen's speed on race day left the outfit with no option but to orchestrate a pass.
He also pointed to the Baku crash between Verstappen and former teammate Daniel Ricciardo back in 2018, as he admitted that he feared the team could have lost big points had they let them fight.
"The pace difference between the two drivers was so significant," Horner told the media in Baku, including RacingNews365.com.
Prior discussions took place before race
Horner admits that the potential scenario had already been talked about before the Grand Prix.
"We discussed during the morning that if you're racing each other, just give each other space, and they did that," he explained.
"2018 isn't too far away at the back of our minds. It was very important that the drivers, at this stage of the championship, were fair with each other.
"The priority is to maximise the points versus Ferrari. We know they've got a very quick car at the moment, we've seen how quickly things can turn around. So, as a team, we need to prioritise that."
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Were Red Bull to blame for Perez's lack of pace?
Horner has hinted that Perez may have been left vulnerable to an approaching Verstappen due to a set-up mistake that favoured qualifying over the race.
Perez outperformed Verstappen once again on Saturday, but struggled to preserve his tyres during the race, hinting that his car was lacking balance compared to his teammate's.
"I think Checo is a mature guy, he gets the bigger picture and he gets that it's a long, long championship. He's in the form of his career off the back of Monaco, and with his qualified performance," continued Horner.
"I think maybe, with the benefit of hindsight, there was perhaps too much weight put on qualifying in his set-up, with the rear deg[radation] that he experienced [on race day].
"That's something to have a look at. Max was certainly in better shape during the race than Checo was at the back end of that first stint."
F1 Podcast: How worried should Ferrari be by their mechanical woes?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth are joined by Julien Simon-Chautemps as they question how concerned Ferrari should be after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.