Verstappen punishment wasn't fair... it should have been much harsher
Max Verstappen might have left the Brazilian Grand Prix feeling hard done by after tangling with Esteban Ocon cost him a certain victory. Having analysed the incident in full, Matthew Scott says the Dutchman ought to be thanking his lucky stars.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident, it seemed so clear: Ocon had made a rash lunge up the inside of turn two, tried to jolt ahead of Verstappen and crashed into the race leader.
Forget the conspiracies spouted by Helmut Marko – there's simply no way Ocon was thinking of a Mercedes future while aiding the Silver Arrows' constructors' title bid. Besides, Ferrari's wretched day ensured that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas didn't need extra assistance.
But an apparent rush of blood to the head had resulted in the Frenchman ruining Verstappen's race, denying the Red Bull man a sixth grand prix victory and second on the spin after a similarly brilliant drive in Mexico.
Initial assumptions that Verstappen had been lapping Ocon were swiftly dealt with. Verstappen had moved ahead of Ocon when he emerged from the pits on supersoft tyres.
Verstappen took to team radio to ask why his mirrors were suddenly full of pink carbon fibre – he was told that the Frenchman was on fresh supersofts, at the time Verstappen was running on harder soft tyres that had eight laps in them.
Verstappen was tyre saving, fuel saving, engine saving – not driving anywhere near the limit basically, hence Ocon had swiftly caught him.
Having asked if he could unlap himself – and receiving a correct response to the affirmative – Ocon pulled along the outside of Verstappen at tun one and then began to run down to turn two.
The pearl-clutching at seeing a grown man lightly push another under the chest was faintly ludicrous, but if the FIA truly expect "sportsmen at this level to act appropriately and as role models to other drivers at all levels" then shouldn't acts that go against this as much as Verstappen's be punished properly?
Aside from the physical confrontation, Verstappen's language describing Ocon was vulgar to say the least.
Two days of "public service" will be forgotten about in the general consciousness before we reach Abu Dhabi.
When considering that Vettel reportedly served a similar punishment via a webcam after banging wheels with Hamilton in Baku last year, don't expect Verstappen to be undertaking anything mentally or physically taxing as reprimand.
In most other sports, Verstappen's actions would fall under the umbrella of 'bringing the game into disrepute' – the incident brought sharp attention to F1 and not much of it was positive.
The 'punishment' needn't be wholly negative: why not put Verstappen to work with junior drivers or extra fan engagement in Abu Dhabi?
For such public actions to be deemed unsavoury and then punished in private doesn't strike right and only emboldens the class system that has plagued F1 in recent years, precipitating Verstappen's attitude on-track and off it in this matter.
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