Red Bull's Max Verstappen in action with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 11 2018. Picture: REUTERS/PAULO WHITAKER
Red Bull's Max Verstappen in action with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas during the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo, Brazil, November 11 2018. Picture: REUTERS/PAULO WHITAKER

Dutch driver Max Verstappen was accused of trying to punch French rival Esteban Ocon after a controversial clash at Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix which was won by five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull star Verstappen was seen on TV pushing Force India’s Ocon three times and was accused of threatening to hit him, after the pair had collided on track.

The collision on lap 44 of the 71-lap race at Interlagos’ famed Senna S curves cost Verstappen the race and he had to settle for second place.

The livid Dutchman, 21, had earlier said he did not see the Frenchman in the paddock after the race, but made no effort to avoid him in the drivers’ weighing room where he walked straight at him.

“We were at the scales room,” said Ocon. “He wanted to punch me. He pushed me and he was wanting to be violent. It was not professional.”

Ocon added that his rivalry with Verstappen “goes back a few years” and said, “I’m used to the fights with Max. He has always been the same”.

“I was behind Max for two laps,” Ocon told Sky Sports. “On the first lap, I was a lot faster and, on the second lap, I was a lot faster. The rules say you are allowed to unlap yourself so that’s what I did.”

Ocon was given a 10-second stop-go penalty by the stewards for causing the collision.

A video clip of the postrace incident went viral soon afterwards but Verstappen said he had no regrets.

“He came out of the pit lane and he had the right to overtake, but the level of risk he was taking, it was not right. The stewards gave him a penalty. You can say: ‘Max, you should have given room’, but we were not racing and you do not expect that.”

Asked about confronting and pushing Ocon, he said: “We are all passionate about the sport, but it would be odd if I shook his hand. I don’t care what people say. I’m a winner. To get taken out by that and to get a stupid response from their side, I was not happy about that.”

Verstappen told his team over the radio on the slowdown lap that he had better not bump into Ocon because there could be trouble.

The Ocon incident overshadowed a brilliant drive from Verstappen who had charged from fifth on the grid to take the lead.

“The car was working brilliant today. I don’t know what to say. I am happy for second place, but we should have won,” he said.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “I think Max has been pretty restrained. It 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.

“Emotions are running high and I told Verstappen to just get yourself under control on the cool-down lap.

“Max has lost a victory through no fault of his own today. What on earth Ocon was thinking there, it just beggars belief. Why on earth is he racing the leader?”

Later on Sunday, Verstappen was ordered by FIA officials to perform “two days of public service” as punishment for the incident. Verstappen was “extremely upset by the incident on the track and the stewards said that they accepted his explanation that it was not his intention to strike Ocon, but that he was ‘triggered’ and this caused him to lose his temper”, said a statement.

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Hamilton took advantage of the collision that cost Verstappen the lead in the closing stages to regain the initiative and then hang on with worn tyres.

His win allowed Mercedes to claim a fifth successive constructors title.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third on his 150th start for Ferrari ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel who came home sixth for Ferrari.

The result ended Ferrari’s hopes of stopping Mercedes’ title triumph, and brought Hamilton his 10th win of the year and 72nd of his career. It was also the first time he had won a late-season race after winning the drivers’ title.

“It was an honour to drive for them [Mercedes] today,” said Hamilton.

Charles Leclerc finished seventh for Sauber ahead of the two Haas cars driven by Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen with Sergio Perez 10th for Force India.

AFP