Ver­stap­pen cops flak af­ter set-to

THE MO­TOR­SPORT LAP/ Dutch driver widely crit­i­cised for push­ing and shov­ing Este­ban Ocon fol­low­ing on-track clash

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen is a For­mula One cham­pion-in­wait­ing but he showed in Sun­day’s Brazil­ian Grand Prix that he still has much to learn, ac­cord­ing to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

The 21-year-old Dutch driver and Force In­dia’s Este­ban Ocon, 22, pro­vided the main talk­ing point af­ter clash­ing on and off the track at In­ter­la­gos.

Ver­stap­pen pushed and shoved the Force In­dia back­marker at the scales, the im­ages broad­cast around the world, af­ter a col­li­sion that robbed him of a sec­ond suc­ces­sive vic­tory.

“On Max, you can see there is a fu­ture cham­pion com­ing to­gether,” Wolff said.

“Un­be­liev­able tal­ent and speed and I think once the raw edges are off he will be some­body that will be a world cham­pion one day. In a few years he will look at the footage of to­day and will maybe have his own opin­ion whether that was the right be­hav­iour or not. But you can’t ac­cel­er­ate these things, this is a learn­ing process.”

Al­ready this sea­son Ver­stap­pen has had to fend off ques­tions about why he has had so many ac­ci­dents, while Ocon’s record is hardly blem­ish-free ei­ther af­ter clashes with Force In­dia team mate Ser­gio Perez.

Sun­day’s in­ci­dent drew a range of opin­ion, with some feel­ing Ver­stap­pen went too far by lay­ing hands on a ri­val while oth­ers re­garded the Dutch­man as be­ing jus­ti­fi­ably an­gry at pay­ing the price for the mis­take of an­other driver.

Ocon, backed by cham­pi­ons Mercedes who see him as a tal­ent for the fu­ture, was widely crit­i­cised for a risky move in try­ing to pass the lead­ing car when al­ready lapped. He was handed a 10-sec­ond stop/go penalty at the time.

Ver­stap­pen, sub­se­quently or­dered to do two days of pub­lic ser­vice as pun­ish­ment for the push­ing, could equally have given the French­man a wider berth and kept his eyes firmly on the big­ger prize of vic­tory.

Lewis Hamil­ton, who was de­lighted to be gifted the lead and ul­ti­mately the win for Mercedes while Ver­stap­pen fin­ished sec­ond and was named driver of the day, re­minded him of that as they were wait­ing to go on the podium.

“He is al­lowed to un­lap him­self you had more to lose than he did. He had noth­ing to lose,” the five-times world cham­pion, who had al­ready wrapped up 2018’s ti­tle, pointed out.

Da­mon Hill, the 1996 world cham­pion and Sky Sports pun­dit, felt nei­ther was blame­less.

“Clearly Ocon should not have got him­self in a tan­gle sit­u­a­tion with the race leader,” he told mo­tor­sport.com.

“But Max diced with him, in­stead of go­ing, ‘What is this guy play­ing at? He’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult,’ and wait­ing for a slightly less risky op­por­tu­nity. I don’t want to be crit­i­cal of Max. It won’t make a dif­fer­ence any­way, be­cause he will con­tinue to take risks and drive the way he drives, but he will learn,” Hill said.

FER­NANDO ALONSO STILL CHASES TRIPLE CROWN

The McLaren and two-times For­mula One world cham­pion Fer­nando Alonso will en­ter 2019’s In­di­anapo­lis 500, the team an­nounced on Satur­day.

It will be the sec­ond time that the Spaniard has taken part in the race.

The 37-year-old, who is also com­pet­ing for Toy­ota in the World En­durance Cham­pi­onship, is leav­ing For­mula One at the end of this sea­son.

Alonso is a dou­ble Monaco Grand Prix win­ner and won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2018, leav­ing only In­di­anapo­lis be­tween him and be­com­ing only the sec­ond driver to achieve the “Triple Crown of Mo­tor­sport”.

Late Bri­ton Gra­ham Hill, also a two-times For­mula One cham­pion, is the only one to have done it, com­plet­ing the triple in 1972.

Max Ver­stap­pen.

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