Verstappen defends Brazilian clash with Hamilton

Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton in Brazil

Formula 1 world championship leader Max Verstappen has defended his actions during last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver finished second to Lewis Hamilton in that encounter after the pair waged a wheel-to-wheel battle on track.

A flashpoint of that battle was a Lap 48 incident which saw both drivers leave the confines of the racing surface at Turn 4 as Hamilton attacked race leader Verstappen.

With the inside line, the points leader ran wide, in doing so forcing his Mercedes rival off track.

Officials initially noted the incident before announcing they would not investigate it further.

However, since then, onboard footage from Verstappen’s car has been released by the sport’s commercial rights holder, triggering Mercedes to lobby for a right to review for the incident.

While that meeting was being held in Losail ahead of this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix, Verstappen fronted the media.

“As a driver, I think we know exactly what we can or cannot do in a car,” he said when asked if he’d pull the same move again.

“We were fighting hard, braking late into the corner, the tyres were quite worn, [and] if I would have turned more abrupt to the left, you just spin off the track.

“So that’s why we are the drivers; we try to control the car.”

Mercedes’ right to review will see it put its case to the same stewards who presided over the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

To be successful, it must convince that panel that it has significant new information which was not available at the time of the initial hearing.

On that point it should be easy enough, given the emergence of vision from Verstappen’s car which was not available at the time.

However, it must also be deemed significant enough to warrant the incident being re-examined.

Should officials deem it not sufficient, the matter is effectively closed.

Alternatively, they could opt to re-examine the incident with the new evidence, which may or may not change their opinion.

A change of opinion could result in a penalty for Verstappen, which could come in either time added to his Sao Paulo Grand Prix result, or a grid drop for Qatar.

In either case, the process is evidence of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff’s assertion that “diplomacy has ended” with regards to this year’s title quest.

Meanwhile, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has suggested the whole situation has got somewhat out of hand.

“I think it’s a bit unnecessary,” he ventured when asked his opinion of the right of review.

“Time goes one way, so what changes? I don’t think anything changes.

“I think Lewis drove a great race; he won; he was faster. That’s it.”

Verstappen does not agree, suggesting it’s the logical extension of a ferocious championship battle.

“I think it’s quite normal when it’s between two teams instead of just one team with two drivers, right,” he suggested of the battle boiling over off track.

“I just have to focus on what’s happening on track, of course, The rest will be dealt with.

“I don’t even think about that,” he added of the prospect of a penalty should the incident be reviewed.

“And also, if… it’s not the end of the world.

“I don’t expect that to happen because I thought it was fair and hard racing, and between the two guys who are fighting for the championship.

“It wouldn’t have been any way an easy pass because it’s not how I am, and I don’t think how it should be when you’re fighting for the title.”

Verstappen currently holds a 14-point advantage in the title fight with three races remaining.

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