Abu Dhabi GP: Max Verstappen has no regrets over Esteban Ocon clash
"It could have been a lot worse," says Verstappen. "I thought it was a calm response"; Sunday's Abu Dhabi GP starts at 1.10pm
Last Updated: 23/11/18 8:27am
Max Verstappen says he has no regrets about pushing Esteban Ocon after the Brazilian GP and says their confrontation could have been a "lot worse".
The Red Bull driver will have to serve two days of public service after shoving his Force India rival following their crash during last Sunday's race at Interlagos.
"I don't understand what l could have done differently," insisted Verstappen during a tense press conference for this weekend's Abu Dhabi GP.
"We are all emotional. I had just lost a victory and from my side l was really calm. It could have been a lot worse. I thought it was a calm response. What did you expect? Me to shake his hand and thank him for finishing second?"
Verstappen added that opinion of his actions would be different had his conversation with Ocon on the weighbridge been made recorded.
"If you understood the whole conversation it would be different," he said.
Pressed to reveal what was said, Verstappen replied: "Something l didn't expect to hear. I was after an apology and l got a bit of a different response."
Ocon, sitting alongside Verstappen, refused to be drawn on the incident.
"We have to move forward, we cannot change the past," Ocon said. "I'm sure even if Max said the opposite he would like to come back on what he did after the race."
Analysing the Ocon-Verstappen clash
From Sky Sports F1's Mark Hughes...
There are two components to the now-infamous Max Verstappen/Esteban Ocon incident in Brazil. Fan opinion is hugely split on whether it was Verstappen's fault for turning in on the Force India, leaving Ocon nowhere else to go but into the side of the Red Bull. Or whether Ocon had no business being there. Both are in fact valid. The actions of both drivers - which were unnecessary in both cases - combined to make the accident. But although the errors of judgement were similar, the matter of blame is subtly different. One of the drivers was perfectly entitled to make the - wrong - judgement call that he made. The other was not.
Overwhelmingly the root cause of this accident was Ocon not recognising that a driver unlapping himself is not entitled to contest a piece of race track with the car he is unlapping as if he were racing it. In this situation you are not racing the car you are unlapping yourself from. You are, of course, perfectly entitled to unlap yourself - but you are absolutely not entitled to dictate to the other guy where you are going to do that. It requires the other guy's co-operation - and if he has made it plain that he is not giving you that co-operation at that particular moment, then you simply have to accept that and wait for a more opportune moment. Maybe under DRS down to Turn 4 in this instance.
Sure, by the time Verstappen turned in on him at turn two, Ocon had nowhere to go. That is not in dispute. The point is, Ocon had no business being there. Verstappen - by defending from Ocon's attempted overtake into turn one and then sitting it out wheel-to-wheel - had made it more than plain that he was not granting Ocon that courtesy at that particular moment. Ocon was at that point obliged to recognise that and back off as they went down the hill - as opposed to continuing to challenge for a piece of race track as if he were racing Verstappen. That was the error at the centre of the accident.
Verstappen and Ocon have a history of conflict stretching right back to their days as karting kids. So whether Verstappen was ever going to make it easy for Ocon or - more likely - was going to remain belligerent is beside the point. From the perspective of the guy trying to do the un-lap, the driver he is trying to pass is entitled to be as belligerent as he chooses to be. Whether that's wise or not is a different matter - but it that judgement is certainly none of Ocon's business in this situation. The driver being unlapped is entitled to be as belligerent as he chooses to be, so long as he is not driving dangerously.
As to the matter of whether it was wise of Verstappen to assume Ocon would no longer be there - that he would have backed off down the hill as he should have done - no, of course it was not. It was a belligerent assumption that cost him the race victory. But he was perfectly entitled to make that unwise call if he so chose. Ocon was not entitled to be where he was. That is the difference.
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