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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

'I think that is how I am': Red Bull's Max Verstappen sees no reason for him to change

The Dutchman, 21, courted controversy for confrontation with Esteban Ocon in Brazil and comments made before the Abu Dhabi GP

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen finished fourth in the 2018 Formula One championship. Victor Besa / The National
Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen finished fourth in the 2018 Formula One championship. Victor Besa / The National

Max Verstappen has no plans to tone down his behaviour after his controversial end to the Formula One season.

The Red Bull Racing driver physically pushed Force India's Esteban Ocon after the Brazilian Grand Prix two weeks ago, an incident that led to him being punished by the FIA, motorsport's ruling body, with two days of public service.

Verstappen then spoke out in defence of his behaviour in a lively news conference ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Thursday, criticising the FIA's sanction and claiming he had been "really calm" despite going out of his way to confront Ocon.

Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, had said he was happy to allow Verstappen to speak his mind, and the 21-year-old Dutchman says he is only being himself and there is no reason for him to change.

"I think that is how I am," he said on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. "Even at Toro Rosso I think I was like that. Maybe they don't broadcast it [his pit radio comments] as much as you are not fighting for the victories and podiums. But I have always been like that in my life so from my side there is no reason to change that."

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Verstappen said he would not hold back on expressing himself, even if Red Bull were not supportive.

"You [Red Bull] took me on board like I am," he added. "I think it also brought to me where I am right now, so it definitely has a reason."

Verstappen is one of the few top-level sportsmen happy to speak his mind, but he added that, despite how it looked in Abu Dhabi, he is wary that what he says can sometimes be twisted.

"We can't say anything we like because everything is written down in 40 different ways and you have to be really careful," he said. "Everybody has an opinion on social media so sometimes you don't want to say everything in case someone gets upset."

Verstappen finished off his season on Sunday with a third place in Abu Dhabi after he had dropped to 10th on the opening lap.

It was his fifth podium in a row and completes an impressive second half of the year, which also included victories in Austria and Mexico.

Verstappen scored only 35 points in the first six races of a year blighted by several mistakes as well as collisions with other drivers.

But he racked up 214 points after that - only world champion Lewis Hamilton scored more in that period - and missed out on third in the championship by just two points to Kimi Raikkonen.

Verstappen, who only turned 21 in September, will look to carry that form into next season in a bid to become F1's youngest world champion, a record held by Sebastian Vettel, who was 23 years and 134 days when he clinched the first of his four drivers' titles in 2010. Verstappen believes a lot will rely on how good the power units from new engine partner Honda are under the 2019 Red Bulls.

"In Formula One it is all depending on the package you have," he said. "Hopefully we will have that next year.

"As a team we want to go back to the winning ways and championships and with Honda coming in they also have that target, so hopefully we can achieve it soon."