Mad max moment? No regrets

Verstappen unrepentant about incident at the Brazilian GP, claiming Ocon goaded him

ABU DHABI • Max Verstappen has defended his actions in confronting and shoving Esteban Ocon after the pair clashed at the Brazilian Grand Prix nearly two weeks ago, and insisted that he had "no regrets".

During a tense press conference on Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the Dutchman claimed that strong emotions were a part of sport and that drivers were not robots.

The 21-year-old was in the lead at Interlagos when Ocon attempted to unlap himself in his Force India.

They collided and Verstappen spun and took damage, losing his place and the race to Mercedes' five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

The Red Bull driver then confronted Ocon in the weigh-in room and the pair exchanged words that led him to repeatedly shoving the Frenchman. Verstappen received a two-day community service order from governing body FIA (International Automobile Federation) but defended himself stoutly.

"We are all here to win and you are in that position, then it gets taken from you. It's not nice," he said. "Emotions can then take over and I think it is really normal (to react like that). We are not robots. We have emotions.

"What do you expect me to do? Shake his hand, thank you very much for being second instead of first?"

 
 
 

He also suggested Ocon goaded him, saying: "You guys don't hear what is said on the scales, you just see me pushing, but if you understand the whole conversation, you will see it a bit differently.

"It was something I didn't expect to hear. It doesn't matter what it was at the end of the day because it clearly p****d me off."

Asked if he now regrets his actions, he said: "No. Not really. I was after an apology and I got a bit of a different response."

Ocon wanted to draw a line under the events in the build-up to the season finale this weekend.

"I think we have to move forwards," he said. "We can't change the past. I'm sure, even if Max said the opposite, he would like to come back on what he did after the race."

Verstappen was backed by Sebastian Vettel, however. "We are human beings and emotions go both ways," the Ferrari driver said.

"They go full of joy when something good happens and they probably swing the other way if you're not happy or upset. I think it's clear that we're here to fight for something that means the world to us."

Meanwhile, Hamilton praised one of his most bitter rivals before adding that he and Formula One will miss the retiring Fernando Alonso. "We've had good times and bad times," said the Briton, teammates with the Spaniard at McLaren in 2007 . "We've grown.

"He achieved incredible things before I got here. It's been a privilege to be in an era where he was racing.

"Will I miss him? Yeah. I think the sport will miss him."

Alonso will be aiming next year to become only the second man, after Briton Graham Hill, to claim motor sport's Triple Crown. He will hope to add a triumph in the Indianapolis 500, with McLaren, to his wins at the Monaco GP and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2018, with the headline 'Mad max moment? No regrets'. Print Edition | Subscribe