Verstappen the ‘victim’ at Spa?

If you’re looking for some sort of concession on Max Verstappen’s part for his role in the turn 1 incident with two Ferraris in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix from Spa Francorchamps, you’re not going to get it. That’s not how Max roles and it certainly isn’t his fault:

“I was a victim in the first corner, you could see clearly I was on the inside, almost 90%,” said Verstappen.

“I didn’t lock a tyre, so it didn’t show I was diving up the inside, I was just trying to make my corner.

“First of all Kimi started to squeeze me but we are not touching each other but then Sebastian decided to turn in on both of us.

“He turned into Kimi and Kimi hit me so from there on, the front wing was destroyed and my floor.”

“They should understand that first of all they destroyed my race in Turn 1 so why should I say ‘OK here you can go’,” he said.

“Of course it was quite aggressive, but they destroyed my race so it’s not like I say you can take my position that easy as well.”

There’s very little doubt in my mind that Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel did not see Verstappen jamming up the inside, off line and underneath Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari. Sebastian could shoulder a lion’s share of the blame as he turned aggressively into turn 1 anticipating enough room for his teammate, Kimi, to take a tight line on the inside and get a good launch on exit. There was room for both Ferraris but not when you add a Red Bull underneath them.

Vettel felt that Ferrari had a very good chance of finishing second and third and given their pace while damaged, I think he may be right. Regardless, Kimi Raikkonen was highly critical of the young Dutchman as was Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who said:

“The FIA has not penalised it, the only thing that has happened is that he has been given a hard time in the drivers’ briefings.

“Maybe next time, he will have a harder time.

“I just fear it might end up in the wall heavily one day. It is refreshing but dangerous.”

As I’ve mentioned many times before, Toto is never at a loss for an opinion on everything in Formula 1 whether it has anything to do with his team or operation or not. Curious about driver contract negotiations between Force India and Sergio Perez? Toto has an opinion. Wonder if Silverstone will be saved? Toto has an opinion. Concerned for Kevin Magnussens foot? Toto has an opinion. When it comes to Toto’s opinion on his driver, Red Bull’s Christian Horner has an opinion too:

“I’m surprised Toto is commenting on something that has nothing to do with him.”

Zing! That’s precisely what I would have said if I were team boss of Red Bull.

Regardless of how much blame you ascribe to Vettel or Verstappen in turn 1, what became clear was the very fact that Max fell for the oldest rookie mistake in the book—trying to win the race on the first lap. If you’re questioning that, his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, proves that measured aggression and defense can result in a podium as he managed his race and defended against a storming Lewis Hamilton.

I certainly have respect for what Max has achieved and quite a bit of room for his race craft honing that is taking place. All drivers go through it as they get more experience in F1. Max is young, brave, unrelenting and that’s what makes him so exciting to watch. Don’t believe me? Well then perhaps you’ll believe Toto’s opinion on the matter:

“He is refreshing for me. He is a young boy I like a lot,” said Wolff.

“He comes in here with no fear, no respect, puts the elbows out.

“It reminds me of the great ones – it reminds me of Lewis [Hamilton], of Ayrton Senna.

“You can see that some guys are starting to think twice about how to overtake him.

Actually, Toto forgot a name—Michael Schumacher was also young, aggressive and all elbows and he won seven titles and 91 races…nearly as much as Hamilton and Senna combined. Max very well could be a complete revelation to F1 when he gets his race craft honed and a measured approach to aggression and defense.

On first blush, you could certainly call his move at turn 1 exciting and aggressive but if you re-watch the incident, he’s completely off track with all four over the white line on the inside and if we’re honest, that’s a track limit issue and even if he did make the pass stick, would the stewards have felt that he gained no advantage by going off track? I’m not sure but in the end, it was his defensive moves against Kimi on Kemmel Straight, running off two or three corners on the first lap with a damaged front wing and ragged run to 11th that draw a more complete picture than just turn 1. Meanwhile, his teammate Ricciardo took his Red Bull to second place and even if the incident didn’t happen and both Ferrari’s finished second and third, Max would have been fourth and most likely ahead of his teammate.

In the end, Max is there to win and not finish fourth and that’s what makes him such a dynamic and exciting racer to watch so it will be interesting to watch his career develop and see what becomes of this Nederlander.