MAX VERSTAPPEN had plenty of reasons to be angry with Esteban Ocon, and he didn’t hold back, engaging in a shoving match with the Frenchman following a controversial Brazilian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver had started fifth for the penultimate grand prix of the 2019 season before ruthlessly carving a path to the lead of the race. Meanwhile, Ocon had ruthlessly carved a path to the tail end and found himself two laps down.
On lap 44, the pair separated by a yawning chasm on the leaderboard, came together on track. Ocon, who had fresh tyres, was attempting to unlap himself, and in doing so made contact with Verstappen. The pair spun off track, and Verstappen was unceremoniously booted from the lead of the race.
Following the race, Verstappen confronted Ocon in parc ferme, with cameras capturing the pair engaging in an ill-tempered and slightly embarrassing shoving match surrounded by FIA officials and fellow drivers.
When asked by Autosport to comment on the post-race stoush, Verstappen added a verbal jab at his rival.
"I don't really have lots to comment on that, except that he was being a pussy,” the Dutchman added.
In response, Ocon called Verstappen ‘violent’, and disparaged his conduct.
"What I am really surprised about is the behaviour of Max coming into the scales,” he told TV cameras.
"The FIA having to stop him from being violent, pushing me and wanted me to punch me - and that is not professional."
Both drivers were hauled in front of the stewards for “physical contact with another competitor in the FIA garage".
Verstappen was ordered to complete two days of "public service at the discretion of the FIA" as punishment for the post-race clash, while Ocon escaped an additional penalty – the Frenchman was given a 10-second stop-go penalty during the race for the initial contact.
Ocon and Verstappen have a tumultuous relationship that goes back to the 2014 FIA Formula 3 championship.
It was Verstappen’s first season outside of karting, and he had controversially signed to race in Formula 1 in 2015. While the world’s attention was fixated on the Dutchman, Ocon dominated the season, winning the championship with a 58-point margin. Verstappen finished the season in third, 67-points behind Ocon.
The Brazilian Grand Prix was won by Lewis Hamilton, who was the benefactor of the clash between the young rivals. The recently crowned five-time champion had some sage advice for Verstappen following the race, warning him that Ocon had a right to attempt to unlap himself.
Kimi Raikkonen finished third, while Daniel Ricciardo just missed out on a podium position in fourth. Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top five.
Speaking after the race, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner defended his driver, stating Verstappen had been unexpectedly subdued given the circumstances.
"I think Max has been pretty restrained," he told Sky Sports F1. "It's cost him a grand prix victory. He's driven his heart out with a damaged car.
"Esteban was lucky to get away with a push, to be honest with you. Emotions are running high.
"It's clear that as a lapped car you shouldn't interfere with the leader.
"What on earth Ocon was thinking about there just beggars belief."