Verstappen and Ocon in war of words over race-defining Interlagos clash
A war of words has broken out between Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon following their extraordinary coming together on lap 44 of the Brazilian Grand Prix while race-leader Verstappen was battling with the lapped Force India driver. And it’s a war that’s set to rumble on, too, following an angry physical confrontation between the two drivers after the race...
Verstappen had dispatched Lewis Hamilton for the race lead on lap 40, and was looking well placed to take his second victory in as many races when Ocon attempted to unlap himself going into Turn 1 at Interlagos.
With neither driver relinquishing in the battle, Ocon held his line around the outside of the corner, meaning that when Verstappen made to sweep past him into Turn 2, the pair collided, sending both drivers spinning into the run-off area and allowing Hamilton back past – a move which led to the five-time champion securing his 10th win of the season.
Ocon was duly handed a 10-second stop-go penalty – one of the harshest punishments the stewards can dish out to a driver without disqualifying them – while Verstappen was forced to settle for second, his Red Bull's floor looking distinctly worse for wear.
The action didn’t end after the chequered flag had flown, however, with footage emerging after the race showing an incensed Verstappen confronting Ocon in the drivers’ weighing area, the old European Formula 3 rivals exchanging pushes before going their seperate ways.
Verstappen hadn’t calmed down much when he faced the media later on, either…
“To get taken out like that, and to get a stupid response from his side as well, I was not happy about that,” said Verstappen. “I’m just trying to do my race and suddenly a backmarker is… just taking a stupid risk, to dive in on the inside. What can I do about it? The penalty for me today is that I lost the victory. Hopefully in 15 years we can laugh about it.”
Asked about the off-track altercation between the two, Verstappen defended his actions, saying: “We are all passionate about the sport. I mean, it would be odd if I had shaken his hand.”
And while most of Verstappen’s ire was directed at Ocon, he had a rebuttal for Hamilton too, after the race-winner had told the post-Grand Prix press conference, referring to the incident: “I wasn’t surprised by it… Max is like that, he’s a go get it guy and every now and then it comes to bite you.”
“Of course afterwards, you can easily say ‘Max you should have given him room and blah blah blah’,” retorted Verstappen. “But it’s not like that. We are racing and you don’t expect a back-marker to take you out.”
For his part, Ocon maintained that he’d been in the right, before going on to call out his rival’s post-race conduct as unprofessional.
“The rules say you are allowed to unlap yourself if you’re faster,” said Ocon. “That’s what I did on the second lap. I still saw I had massive pace. I went around the outside of him. That’s the same move I did on Fernando, the same move I did on many other drivers.”
“But what I’m really surprised is the behaviour of Max coming into the scales. The FIA having to stop him being violent, pushing me and wanting to punch me. That is not professional.
“[But] I’m used to the fights with Max. He’s always been the same. It goes back a few years.”
On top of Ocon’s in-race penalty, both drivers were subsequently summoned to appear before the stewards to explain their respective parts in the post-race scuffle. Whatever the outcome, however, one thing seems certain: with both of these drivers looking well-placed to continue competing against each other in Formula 1 in the future, it doesn't look like we've heard the last of this rivalry.