LONDON • Max Verstappen, Formula One's teenage sensation, faces a dressing-down from his father after some of the leading names in the sport ganged up to berate him for his muscular driving at the Belgian Grand Prix.
The Dutch driver, a month from his 19th birthday, dived for the inside at the first corner of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Sunday and was blamed for triggering a crash between the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Although he finished behind them both in 11th, Verstappen kept both Ferraris at bay during the early stages of the race with a series of moves that angered the two former world champions.
Fans filled social media with a mixture of support and condemnation and even F1's senior figures could not make up their minds, swinging from adulation as he was described as "the new Senna" to claiming he was an accident waiting to happen.
Niki Lauda, chairman of Mercedes and a three-time world champion, has decided to go straight to the Verstappen front door with his worries.
He is a friend of Jos, Verstappen's father and one-time team-mate of Michael Schumacher at Benetton, and says he wants dad to have a word with the teenager.
"The young man is a talent of the century," Lauda said, "but he has no understanding of doing something wrong. I will talk to his father Jos and tell him to speak with his boy. It was well above the limit."
Vettel is planning to have a quiet word, too, when F1 meets up again this weekend in Monza for the Italian Grand Prix.
"I tried to speak to Max, but after the race is really not the right time," Vettel said. "He didn't have a good day but penalising people is not the way to educate. We need to talk."
Verstappen, who has already earned a reputation for not backing down, blamed Vettel and Raikkonen for the first-corner incident.
"If they screw up my race, I am not going to make it easy for them," he said. "I will not say, 'Come on through'. They should be ashamed, with their amount of experience."
The race stewards did not object and 1996 world champion Damon Hill showed tacit support as well. He said on Twitter: "It looked more like Vettel chopping across Kimi!"
Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes Motorsport, says that Verstappen is reminiscent of world champion Lewis Hamilton but added: "I just fear it might end up in the wall heavily one day - it is dangerous."
Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve claimed that what Verstappen did in Belgium was simply "unacceptable". He believes that motor racing's governing body is reluctant to punish the driver because it does not want to diminish his box-office value.
"The issue is the FIA, because it looks like he's got protection," Villeneuve told Motorsport.com. "They want him to be a star."
THE TIMES, LONDON