SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Formula One stewards ordered Max Verstappen to do two days of public service for an angry confrontation with Force India’s Esteban Ocon following a collision that cost the Red Bull driver victory in Brazil on Sunday.
Verstappen was leading at Interlagos when he tried to pass backmarker Ocon, who tried to retake the position but instead made contact.
The impact sent the 21-year-old Dutchman into a spin and allowed five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton to win for Mercedes.
The Red Bull driver, who had called the Frenchman an idiot over the radio among other more colourful language, was seen on television angrily confronting Ocon after the race and giving him a shove.
He was unrepentant when asked about it soon afterwards.
“We are passionate about the sport, right?,” he said. “It would be odd if I would shake his hand.”
Verstappen dismissed those who said he had taken things too far, adding: “I don’t care what those people say.
“I am a winner. To get taken out like that and then to get a stupid response from his side as well, I was unhappy about that,” he added.
Stewards said in a statement after summoning both drivers that the public service had to be carried out at the governing FIA’s direction within the next six months.
They said Verstappen entered the weigh bridge garage, and “following a few words, started an altercation, pushing or hitting Ocon forcefully several times in the chest.”
They accepted his explanation that he had not intended originally to hit Ocon but had lost his temper.
“While sympathetic to Verstappen’s passion, the Stewards determined that it is the obligation of sportsmen at this level to act appropriately and as role models to other drivers at all levels and found that Verstappen failed in this respect.”
The stewards had already handed Ocon a 10 second stop/go penalty during the race for causing the collision — a sanction that Force India team boss Otmar Szafnauer was predictably unhappy about.
“I don’t think Max left him any room,” he told Sky Sports television, “You’re allowed to unlap yourself,” he added, dismissing as ‘conspiracy theory’ any suggestion that Ocon’s long-term contract with Mercedes played any part in his actions.
“He asked us ‘can I unlap myself?’ He was unsure. And we said ‘yeah, go ahead.”
Ocon also pitched in, saying he had been on fresher tyres and was lapping faster and that Verstappen’s post-race behaviour was out of order.
“What I am really surprised about is the behaviour of Max coming into the scales. The FIA having to stop him from being violent, pushing me and wanting to punch me and that is not professional,” said the 22-year-old.
“I am used to the fights with Max, he has always been the same. It goes back a few years,” he added.
Hamilton suggested Verstappen could have exercised more caution on track, telling the Dutchman as much before the podium celebrations.
“You had more to lose than he did. He had nothing to lose,” he said.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said Ocon’s actions ‘beggared belief’ and he was “lucky to get away with a push”.
“Emotions are running high. I told him (Verstappen) ‘just get yourself under control on the cool-down lap’ because he’s lost a victory through no fault of his own today,” he added.
“It’s hugely frustrating for him and the team.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar