12 November 2018

The crash in Interlagos

FIA stewards deal with rules as written and often do not add interpretations that others might draw. So Esteban Ocon got a penalty because he was the lapped car and should not have crashed into the race leader. But I would argue that Ocon’s move on Max was a righteous one, neat and sweet.

The time sheets tell us that Esteban was on newer and faster tyres and all he wanted to do was to pass the Red Bull and get back on to the lead lap, which he had a right to do. If the two had been on the same lap I’m sure it would have been ruled a racing incident because for me it was a 50-50 crash because both drivers could have avoided it. But if you’re a lap behind you must take a little more blame, even if you are faster than the leader and trying to unlap yourself.

The bottom line, however, is that Max Verstappen was ultimately the architect of his own downfall, because he decided, for what ever reason, not to leave any space for Ocon. He knew Esteban was there and he shut the door at a point at which Ocon could not back out of his move. The result was that Max lost the race - and it did not have to happen. 

One must add here the background story between these two chargers as they go back a long way and there has been some antagonism along the way. Perhaps Max’s stubborn move was caused a little by that. I think we can dismiss the paranoid ramblings of Helmut Marko as utter rubbish. If Esteban took out Max to help Lewis, it was a conspiracy worthy of Dallas. That was not a sensible remark but sadly the sort of thing that one expects from Marko.

As to what happened afterwards, it was a sign of Max’s passion but also a certain amount of immaturity. Going around physically engaging with other drivers is not a good idea, not helpful to anyone and not great for a role model. He was lucky to have stewards who don’t believe in using the cane. I’m not sure the punishment was sufficient for that reason because as we have seen with Sebastien Vettel, letting a driver off on the basis that he will learn from his mistakes is very poor “parenting”. Vettel lost it on the scales in Interlagos, proof that Jean Todt’s softly softly approach after Baku last year did not work.

As to what Max should do for his community service I have a suggestion. Rather than painting zebra crossings in the Place de la Concorde, he should be ordered to attend the annual stewards’ training event this winter. It will teach him about the job and how it’s not always easy. It will feel like a punishment to him no doubt, but he might learn from it. No mobile devices should be allowed.

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