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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

'I was after an apology': Max Verstappen defends pushing Esteban Ocon in Brazil

Dutchman says he had been provoked by something Ocon had said to him, as he explains his reaction for first time ahead of Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Red Bull's Max Verstappen explained his side of the story regarding a clash with Esteban Ocon at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday. Getty Images
Red Bull's Max Verstappen explained his side of the story regarding a clash with Esteban Ocon at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday. Getty Images

Max Verstappen has claimed he was "really calm" as he defended his behaviour in his fiery exchange with Esteban Ocon that led to him physically pushing the Force India driver after they had collided in Brazil.

Verstappen had been leading in Sao Paulo when he made contact with Ocon after the Frenchman tried to unlap himself on lap 44 of the race.

The Red Bull Racing driver recovered to finish second, but confronted Ocon post-race and was caught by TV cameras pushing the Frenchman three times before he walked away.

Explaining his reaction for the first time at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday ahead of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, the Dutchman said: "I was after an apology and I got a bit of a different response.

"We are all emotional. At the time I had just lost the victory. So I think from my side I was really calm. It could have been much worse."

Verstappen compared his behaviour to that of other sportsmen and said that it was unfair to judge him when they had not heard the dialogue between the pair that had led to the reaction.

"I think pushing in any sport it happens," he added. "I actually saw it a few days ago in football again, so from my side I thought it was a quite calm response.

"What do you expect me to do? Shake his hand? Say thank you very much for being second instead of first? I think it was probably a normal response.

"From my side you guys don't hear what was said at the scales, you just see the pushing. But if you understand the conversation you understand?"

Ocon, who confirmed he will not be on the grid in F1 next season as he is set to be replaced at Force India by Williams driver Lance Stroll, looked to put the incident behind him as he prepares for the racing action in the UAE, which begins with two practice sessions on Friday.

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"We have to move forward, we cannot change the past," said Ocon, who had been the driver found to be at fault by race stewards in Brazil as he was given a 10-second stop-go pit penalty.

"I'm sure even if Max said the opposite he would like to come back on what he did after the race.

"It is not a great thing to crash with the leader. It is not something you want to see and sorry to Max. It was his race to win and he did a fantastic job for the whole race."

The FIA, motorsport's ruling body, took a dim view of Verstappen's actions in Brazil, ordering him to serve two days of public service to the organisation.

Verstappen said he did not know yet what he would be doing for those two days, but believed the punishment was "harsh".

His focus will now return to the track where he can still finish third in the drivers' standings going into Sunday's 55-lap race.

He is fifth, 17 points behind Kimi Raikkonen, and three adrift of fourth-placed Valtteri Bottas.

He needs to finish at least second, and ahead of his two Finnish rivals, to be in with a chance of achieving his best finish yet in the championship.