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Verstappen’s driving up for discussion in Monza meeting

02 Sep 2016

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel each spoke at length on Thursday about their Spa clashes with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen - and it is likely they and others will air their feelings on the Dutchman’s tactics at this evening’s Monza driver briefing with FIA race director Charlie Whiting.

The most-talked-about incident came as Verstappen aggressively blocked Raikkonen’s attack going up to the hill at Kemmel, which prompted the latter to describe the former’s defending as “******* ridiculous,” and to predict that soon he will cause “a massive accident.”

Verstappen and Red Bull team manager Jonathan Wheatley met with Whiting on Friday morning in Italy to discuss the limits of acceptable behaviour. It is understood that the FIA’s view - shared by the stewards who included drivers Danny Sullivan and Felipe Giaffone - is that the Dutchman was just about within the rules by making his single move at the very last second in response to the Finn’s, rather than making his tactics clear with a single move and waiting to see how Raikkonen responded.

Several other drivers feel there are two points at issue here: respect, and whether Verstappen - as some pundits suggested - really did what he did in Belgium as payback for the first-corner incident which ruined all three drivers’ races.

Raikkonen said he thought the rules of engagement were already unambiguous: “I think it’s quite clear what they are and obviously sometimes you feel it’s not correct what happens on circuit but obviously I think the biggest problem is it’s not always the same. I think as drivers we always discussed it and it’s a bit up and down and I think that could be improved.

“Personally I have nothing against Max. He is doing a good job and he’s fast. It's not a personal thing but certain things, at least in my feeling, were not correct if you have to slow down or brake under full speed. But those things are never-ending discussions, but let’s see what happens.”

Vettel added: “I haven’t spoken to him yet. I think the thing that we’ve spoken about before and has come up again in Spa was the bit that is the moving under braking which obviously, as the lead car, is the wrong thing to do. The following car can react, but there are situations where you can’t react anymore and it will end up in a crash which has been something that we’ve talked about.

“I think he understood when we spoke about it so we obviously need to maybe have another chat. But as I said in Spa, I’m not a big fan of running to the stewards and complain there. I think it’s much better if we do it face to face. Unfortunately we haven’t done that yet, but I’m sure we will.”

Support for Verstappen came from McLaren's Fernando Alonso, however.

"In the middle of the straight you are allowed to do one move as long as the other one is not alongside you, so everything fits,” the Spaniard explained. "Regarding Max, on the long straight, I don't think Kimi was side by side. It was very late and maybe he didn't judge where Kimi was, but Kimi was still behind. The rule, as written, is still good."

Verstappen, meanwhile, insists he’s not going to change.

"To be honest, for me Spa is done," he said. "What happened in the race, that can happen sometimes but I just focus ahead of Monza. I think it was all pretty clear. Like I said. I don't like to stay in the past and what happened there. I just focus ahead and I try to push again and just do my thing, and show my driving style like it was before.

"You have to see it like this. Let's say you put Zlatan Ibrahimovic up as a defender. Would he like it just because other people think he is a better defender? I don't think he will listen to those guys. If he likes to attack he wants to attack. It is not because other drivers tell me I have to change my driving style that I will change my driving style."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also defended his driver, saying: “He is young, aggressive. I think part of what makes him such an attractive driver is his sheer determination. People often forget he is 18, and in his first years of F1 racing.

“Some of his moves have ruffled other drivers’ feathers, but I think it’s a curve he is on: he will look back on this. He is focused on his own job and not intimidated by the surroundings he is in. I think that’s part of what marks him out as a real star of the future.

“From a team perspective, we speak after the races - in private - and talk through these things. What I don’t want to do is dampen down his spirit, which is so clear. It’s that spirit he has that is bringing fans trackside.”