Top 20 Stories of 2018
Topic

Top 20 Stories of 2018

Top Stories of 2018, #7: Verstappen's hands-on approach

A rare case of handbags in Formula 1 is seventh on our list of the biggest motorsport stories of 2018, as an irate Max Verstappen squares up against a defiant Esteban Ocon in Brazil.

Top Stories of 2018, #7: Verstappen's hands-on approach

When footage emerged of Max Verstappen approaching Esteban Ocon after the Brazil race and giving him several pushes during a heated conversation, much of the social media reaction was somewhere along the lines of “you hate to see that” and “this is embarrassing for F1”.

Except, well, it isn't and you clearly don't – 'you' in this case being the general public, considering the rate at which the clip was shared and the fact that many TV networks and newspapers displayed 'the shove' front and centre. It certainly gave F1 news value that the outcome of the race itself, another win by its dominant five-time champion, did not produce.

None of that is cause to celebrate a physical altercation, of course, but Verstappen's actions were mild enough to at least be accepted as an expression of emotion that is part of sport. Specifically, a sport which for one reason or another, whether it be extensive PR training or the very nature of its action, occasionally tends to come off as overly reserved and repressed.

Brazil was already a fairly entertaining race before the controversy struck, as Verstappen made the most of Mercedes' sudden tyre struggles and general Ferrari sluggishness to get himself within striking distance of Hamilton, pass him and pull away.

But he didn't pull away far enough for his win hopes to survive a clash with Ocon, who was unsighted in attempting to unlap himself at Turn 1 and spun the Dutchman, relegating him behind Hamilton for good.

Of all the drivers on the grid, it just had to be Ocon, both a former archrival of Verstappen's in F3 and an employee of the very Mercedes team that benefitted from the mishap.

Back in Monaco, rivals had already complained about Mercedes' perceived influence on Ocon's race – but to the credit of both Verstappen and his entourage, in Brazil they never quite went as far as to imply conspiracy.

But that's not to say Verstappen wasn't livid. He let Ocon have it over the radio, he sought him out after that race and, believing that Ocon wasn't showing the requisite level of contrition, gave him a few shoves – before going on to call him a “p***y” in the post-race conference.

Both he and team boss Christian Horner, consistent when it comes to backing his star men, did ultimately overstep the line in suggesting Ocon was fortunate the conflict hadn't escalated. A claim not dishonest but clearly unnecessary from Red Bull's side, it was also echoed by a third party in ex-F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve, who branded the Frenchman “an embarrassment”.

Ocon maintained his innocence and was supported by Mercedes men Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton, but the FIA was on Verstappen's side in the initial ruling, giving Ocon an (ultimately meaningless) in-race penalty and describing his unlapping attempt as “unacceptable”. It did also take action against Verstappen when it came to an off-track matter, handing him a “public service” penalty, although it's not entirely clear still what that will ultimately entail.

In the end, nobody came out looking all that great. Not Ocon, who blotted his otherwise superb 2018 record and briefly cut off the supply of justified compassion over the fact he somehow won't be on the grid next year.

Not Verstappen, whose sensational drive was overshadowed by an outburst of aggression. Not, for that matter, the governing body, its penalty system proving unfit for purpose and its blue flag rules proving either too strict or too lax, but probably too open for interpretation.

But did it ultimately hurt F1? No chance.

Click here to view the Top 20 Stories countdown so far.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing and Esteban Ocon, Racing Point Force India square up after the race following their on track crash

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing and Esteban Ocon, Racing Point Force India square up after the race following their on track crash

Photo by: Sutton Images

shares
comments
Rivals thought Toro Rosso "totally crazy" to choose Honda
Previous article

Rivals thought Toro Rosso "totally crazy" to choose Honda

Next article

The F1 test driver who now saves wild jaguars

The F1 test driver who now saves wild jaguars
Load comments
The code of conduct debate prompted by the Alonso/Raikkonen marginal call Prime

The code of conduct debate prompted by the Alonso/Raikkonen marginal call

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen's clash in Austin has thrust the debate about rights and wrongs of wheel-to-wheel combat firmly into the public spotlight, prompting complaints about the Formula 1 rules process. But what can the FIA do to prevent the issue resurfacing?

How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in F1 2021 battle Prime

How Ferrari gained a new edge over McLaren in F1 2021 battle

Supremacy in the McLaren vs Ferrari fight over third place in the constructors’ championship has ebbed and flowed between the two teams so far in the 2021 Formula 1 season. But for several key reasons, right now it seems the advantage has swung decisively back to the Scuderia and McLaren knows it.

Formula 1
Oct 27, 2021
The details that boosted Verstappen and held back Hamilton in Austin Prime

The details that boosted Verstappen and held back Hamilton in Austin

As the 2021 Formula 1 title battle winds towards its climax, the United States GP added another thrilling act in the Lewis Hamilton-Max Verstappen battle. Although Hamilton aced the start, Verstappen and Red Bull took the initiative with strategy and were richly rewarded, despite Mercedes' best efforts as the race went down to the wire

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
US Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

US Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a baking hot afternoon in Texas, Formula 1 drivers were tested to their limits. As the pressure on the title contending squads reaches an ever-greater level of intensity, the foremost challengers again showed their class, but were outshone by a standout drive from the upper midfield

Formula 1
Oct 25, 2021
The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert Prime

The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

It's 50 years since Jo Siffert was killed in his prime at Brands Hatch. The Swiss scored just two world championship wins in a Formula 1 career spent largely with privateer teams, but showed on numerous occasions in single-seaters and in sportscars with Porsche that he could beat any of the best drivers of his era given the right equipment.

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
Why a misunderstood Kimi Raikkonen will thrive in retirement Prime

Why a misunderstood Kimi Raikkonen will thrive in retirement

Three years on from Kimi Raikkonen's last Grand Prix victory at Austin, he is now six races away from ending the longest Formula 1 career in history. His friend and former Ice1 Racing rally team PR man Anthony Peacock explains why there’s nobody quite like the 2007 world champion and why F1 will miss him (but he won’t miss it).

Formula 1
Oct 24, 2021
How Verstappen has become F1 champion material Prime

How Verstappen has become F1 champion material

As Red Bull and Honda go all-out for victory in the Japanese engine manufacturer’s last season of its latest Formula 1 dalliance, Max Verstappen finds himself thrust into a compelling title fight with Lewis Hamilton. He told OLEG KARPOV about his evolution into a world championship contender and why Red Bull's no compromise ethos suits him down to the ground

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021
Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle Prime

Why long-run times should please Red Bull in Austin F1 battle

Mercedes has been on a roll of late in the ultra-tight fight to win the 2021 Formula 1 world championship. It started off well in practice at Austin for this weekend’s US Grand Prix, but Red Bull got closer as Friday unfolded and even seemed to find an edge in one critical area of what seems set to be set to be another close contest.

Formula 1
Oct 23, 2021