Oconspiracy? No, but he knew what he was doing

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Before last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix many were inclined to look sympathetically at Esteban Ocon.

Here was a driver in his second full season of Formula 1 doing a solid job against a quality team mate, who was set to lose his set to a rival who is more well-monied than well-regarded.

Then Ocon made the blunder of knocking race leader Max Verstappen into a spin while he was being lapped. That plus a post-race altercation between the pair, where Verstappen shoved Ocon repeatedly, left many feeling they’d seen a new side of the Force India driver.

As Ocon is a Mercedes junior driver and it was Lewis Hamilton who inherited Verstappen’s lost win, the inevitable conspiracy theories set social media ablaze and leapt to the lips of Red Bull’s motorsport director Helmut Marko. Some harked back to Monaco, where Ocon made it conspicuously easy for Hamilton to overtake him.

Had the driver first noted for his ‘Oconsistency’ now colluded in an ‘Oconspiracy’? “This is how Dr Marko sees the world,” responded Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“And I want to leave it with that because I don’t want to go on this level. We have a fifth championship to celebrate today.” His opposite number at Force India, Otmar Szafnauer, was similarly dismissive.

A glance at the data from the two drivers’ races makes it abundantly obvious that this was a collision of circumstances rather than conspiracy. A collision between a race leader nursing his tyres and a backmarker hunting a point for 10th place who’d just left the pits on fresh rubber.

Moreover, this was a collision between two drivers with a lengthy and at times acrimonious shared past.

Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, Formula Three, Hockenheimring, 2014
Does Ocon ‘know how to deal with Verstappen’? Maybe not
Four years ago Ocon won a season-long scrap between the pair for the European Formula Three championship. However Verstappen, who suffered costly reliability-related setbacks, arguably distinguished himself as the more impressive of the two, and it was he who landed an F1 drive with Toro Rosso for the following season.

Any driver who doesn’t have a cast-iron conviction he can beat any of his rivals given the same equipment doesn’t belong on a Formula 1 grid. Ocon undoubtedly believes he can out-drive Verstappen, and when he emerged from the pits at Interlagos on Sunday he had a rare opportunity to prove the point.

It also coincided with a frustrating spell for Ocon. Since the collapse of his potential move to Renault and the takeover of Force India by Lawrence Stroll’s consortium, it’s been an open secret that he won’t have an F1 drive next year unless he lands a seat at the team which is currently propping up the points table.

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While he’s demonstrated he has the upper hand over team mate Sergio Perez in raw pace this year – Ocon is winning the qualifying battle 15-5 – he has struggled to overcome the huge points cushion Perez built with his podium finish at Baku. When the chequered flag dropped at Austin, Ocon had trimmed that margin to a single point. Then he was disqualified for a technical infringement outside his control.

Ocon spoiled his race in Mexico the same way he did in Azerbaijan, with a first-lap misjudgement. The setbacks continued to mount in Brazil, where a gearbox change penalty relegated him to 18th on the grid.

Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen, Interlagos, 2018
Verstappen tried to keep Ocon behind
After his pit stop Ocon was 14th with a credible shot at 11th. That would have left him one place behind Perez – a decent result given his penalty, and poised to grab a point if anyone ahead dropped out.

So when Ocon rejoined close behind Verstappen he had a clear need to un-lap himself. He had to keep his pace up to ensure Brendon Hartley and Carlos Sainz Jnr would drop behind him when they pitted. He was on fresh super-softs, Verstappen older mediums. Under these unusual circumstances, the Force India was lapping a few tenths quicker than the Red Bull. And that Mercedes power unit gave him a tremendous straight-line speed advantage.

Verstappen knew Ocon was eager to get by: He acknowledged the Force India’s presence on his radio. And approaching turn one as lap 44 began, Verstappen even moved off-line to defend his position.

Whether this was a prudent move by the Red Bull driver is besides the point: Ocon should have taken the hint that the position wasn’t going to be worth fighting for. After all, had he got ahead, he couldn’t realistically expect his tyres to stay fresh long enough to pull away from Verstappen. And then he would have to succumb to the inevitable, time-sapping blue flags.

But for Ocon the temptation to put one over his old foe was too great. How better to issue a reminder of his capabilities to everyone – especially Mercedes, who may have a vacancy in 2020 – than by refusing to back down in a wheel-to-wheel fight with one of the sport’s toughest racers?

He marked Verstappen’s card in anticipation of future fights. And to make sure the point wasn’t missed, when Verstappen came looking for him after the race, Ocon pointed out he had been quicker at the time and grinned. Knowing Verstappen as he does, Ocon probably guessed how his rival would react, not that it excuses Verstappen’s retaliation.

It wasn’t a conspiracy. Ocon probably didn’t even expect Verstappen to turn in. But you have to wonder whether he cared if he did.

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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146 comments on “Oconspiracy? No, but he knew what he was doing”

  1. Well put @keithcollantine, thanks.
    Initially I thought Ocon went to apologise to Verstappen, but, he indeed did not.

    Seems both should learn from this, as in a few years time, we might have forgotten the incident, but the points/stats will still point to them not having the result they could have had.

    1. Even the steward and fia not consistent, they are human too, they made mistake too, they do made wrong decision in punishing driver too. So i guess its up to individual to decide for themselve who is at fault in V and O incident. If u think O is at fault, then he is at fault. If u think V is at fault, they V is at fault.
      To my opinion, V is at fault, he shouldnt simply just cut into O racing line cos O is already more than half car distance beside him. No matter what the fia said about O shouldnt make risky move on V because he gain nothing, or about V should let O through, its racing btw, u gain nothing but if u can go faster so just go and overtake, V still gonna gone further behind O after overtaking. Yes it is true also if V can just let O go because O faster. But btw, whatever it is, both have nothing to lose. Its called racing. Even this website called “race”fans.

      1. Racing is for position. Not to unlap yourself. That move needs to be clean.

        Besides, even if they were racing for position, going into the second corner Ocon wasn’t halfway past Verstappen so should have yielded anyway, although then it would probably be regarded as a racing incident.

        1. Ocon was racing, racing for at least a point.

          Wasn’t halfway? Subscribed to Ziggo perhaps? He was over 3/4-way past VER and had the inside in the real world.

          1. There will be years of deep frustration ahead for you. All your opinions are extremely anti Ver including fact bending and inventing.
            Every racer agreed ocon should have backed down. He did not and wad penalized for it.
            Accept that and hope for a good Ricciardi year to soften your frustrations next year.

        2. Let say you are in the racing situation, the car that had lapped you few lap ago suddenly run slower than you in front of you, will you just wait and wait and wait behind him until the race end? Just go and overtake and smoked him, at least to get a point, still a point. MV looks to me is a bully, he dare to push Ocon, but…if LH or SV or KR or any top team drivers that causes him a spin, he wouldnt dare to do that trust me.

        3. Racing is for position. Not to unlap yourself. That move needs to be clean.

          I think this comment has a valuable lesson for Max – this was a move to unlap himself, not racing. Max needs to learn when to race and when to take the points. Not every move in F1 is a racing move and taking yourself out, losing a race win just to stay in front of someone that you’re not racing shows a lack of judgement. Other than boyish pride Max had nothing to lose by letting Ocon disappear up the road and continue his own race, it was Verstappens choice to turn in onto Ocon whether you think Ocon should have been there or not, it was an easy option for Max to give space and win the race, nobody asked him turn into Ocon.

          1. Strange… Ocon is allowed to race but not verstappen it seems. He had every right to block ocon because there was nothing to gain behind ocon. It would only cost him time and he had every right to defend.

  2. It’s true though that he wouldn’t have done the same move if it was Hamilton or Bottas…..

    1. But he would have (and did) the same move on non Mercedes drivers. So he treated Max the same as he treated the other drivers. Although in fairness Ocon could have rightly surmised that even though Max was winning the race at a canter; he would be stupid enough to close the door on a faster backmarker and throw the race win away.

      1. That was the problem: he treated other drivers the same. But he was overtaking them and not unlapping himself. He should have lifted when Max covered the inside. Unlapping is not racing someone.

        1. So if Max ends up one lap down through some misfortune, and comes out of the pits faster than those in front of him, he’s not racing anymore? Just wait until the car in front deems it suitable to allow Max to pass. And if he tries to go up the inside; well just close the door on him.

          1. So he race harder while being already lapped in a circuit you can overtake than for example being ahead of Lewis in friggin MONACO!! ocon is a clown he just wants to earn points with toto, dont mess with the Mercedes, screw the rivals ferrari, and in your free time screw your old rival that is wining against a Mercedes, maybe the we’ll give you a seat

            Ferrari fan, Vettel fan, dislike max and I’m totally with Marko and verstappen in this one, “interesting tactics”.

          2. What you’re suggesting (and everyone who think ocon attacking max that hard to unlap himself was good, because is Racing) is that blue flags should be removed…is useless according to you and people with similar opinion

        2. This. People claiming that Ocon was ahead are losing sight of the fact that he was actually 99.9% of a lap behind. At no point was he ahead.

      2. I am quite sure that he wouldn’t have done it with Vettel (or Kimi for that matter) @riptide

    2. Indeed! You would have found Ocon running straight on down the old track if a Mercedes had been involved.

      1. Neville Litterick
        14th November 2018, 14:20

        Max knew that a) he was leading the race, b) barring incidents the win was his, c) that Ocon was there. He failed to make the correct judgement and paid the price. Had Ocon been leading the race with Max in the same circumstances, does anyone think Max would have backed off? Thought not.

    3. Looking at how Hamilton behaved in comparable situations in Singapore (lost 5 sec lead to GRO/SIR) and Austin (maintained 2 cat widths with Verstappen), I’d argue that he’ll go out of his way to avoid any possible contact even if Ocon held the line as he did with Max in Brazil.

      He knows that he has most to lose and said something to that effect to Max in the cool down room.

      1. @rockgod

        That’s just Lewis’ usual prodding the competition.

        1. @proesterchen, well, Verstappen himself has also criticised other drivers for not giving him room by saying that they had more to lose than he did – so it seems that he is prepared to invoke that principle, but only when it suits him.

          1. @anon

            The difference is that whatever Max might say, chances are he was actually answering a question or criticising or commenting on the topic at hand.

            Lewis only opens his mouth to inflict maximum emotional damage on his competition.

      2. Thats why Max and Vettek aren’t on lewis level

        1. Thats right..Veztappen allready past Lewis in sheer speed, talent and craft…only two things are missing: consistency and a powerfull engine

          1. Three things not two, He has no self control.

          2. Hardly past. You are getting carried away a bit much imo. Max is incredible, but still a long way to go. Only way to compare both would be to have them in the same car, and I’d bet on Lewis should it happen.

    4. It’s clearly Ocon’s fault IMO, but obviously Max had more to lose & could have employed a bit more spatial awareness (to his own benefit). He’s said the exact same of others in the past when he was the one attempting a pass & did the clattering into, so if it’s good enough advice for him to give then maybe he should attempt following it for once. I realize Ocon could have bailed out once Max resisted the move under braking (and he probably should have) but to be fair to Ocon and play devil’s advocate, his outside line at turn one was quickly turning into the better inside line at turn two (at this point, with a good chunk of his Force India alongside the Red Bull… literal inches away form it being wheel to wheel). Verstappen still literally turned in on him as if he wasn’t there, and he knew he was! I’m not debating fault here… already blamed Ocon for the incident from day one. I’m simply questioning the mindset of Max Verstappen. He could have defended his position while still leaving Ocon enough room, and that would have ensured him the race win. Max has more than once come off as being a bit thick when it comes to weighing risk vs reward & not fighting pointless fights just for the sake of it… especially not when you’re winning anyway, as he was last Sunday. In a lot of ways he reminds me of those silly MMA fighters who’ll hang on to a submission no matter how furiously the other guy taps, risking injury to their opponents or disqualification themselves. What other people dismiss as simple “red mist” behavior, I see as a more serious mental issue, personally. Always have. Losing control of your emotions & better judgement at the sign of every perceived slight sounds more like a genuine cognitive disability… child-like behavior at best.

      1. @curti5_morilis
        14th November 2018, 22:04

        Absolutely agree with that mate, well said. Ocon could’ve backed out and used DRS down the next straight to complete his move. Max could’ve given him the logical space. Could’ve, wouldve, should’ve… It all happened for a reason. They both learned from this, that’s for sure.

    5. @petebaldwin He wouldn’t have needed to do the same move on a Mercedes driver. There would have been sufficient car superiority, thanks to lower drag:downforce ratio on the Mercedes, that the situation would never have arisen…

  3. Fair analysis. I think that only hardcore Verstappen fans seriously believe the ‘Oconspiracy’ theory. (Dr. Marko is simply being dr. Marko.) Maybe Ocon is now a bit desperate to prove he belongs to F1 grid and maybe he would have been more careful if a Mercedes had been in front of him. Other than that, Ocon did what every F1 driver, who is not Damon Hill at the 1999 Japanese GP, should do in a similar situation. He fought.

    1. The ‘theory’ is not as absurd as some may portray it. Since Monaco, Wolff admitted that Ocon is driving under Mercedes orders.

      1. You could ask the question what ocon would have done in front of verstappen. Easy to help Lewis there..

  4. Great article. I agree with it in principle.

    1. It is a great article, @jerejj.

      It feels Keith has mellowed out a bit to present a more balanced assessment of the situation.

      1. I agree this is a good article and analysis.

        Almost unbelievable that this is the same Keith who wrote that awful article on Monday. I have no idea what had gone in the mind of Keith to write such a dreadful tabloid article, like that was.

      2. @coldfly

        It feels Keith has mellowed out a bit to present a more balanced assessment of the situation.

        Or maybe @keithcollantine always meant to write this article and the Orange Army simply leapt down his throat because he addressed the event that resulted in an impromptu stewards investigation and potentially serious ramifications rather than the racing move that was dealt with a penalty during the race?

  5. Ah, Keith, admit it. You secretly love the firestorm these comment pieces ignite, don’t you?

    That said, I do appreciate these articles, far more than the vanilla reporting. An article I remember having significant impact was your piece about how Max’s blocking move on Kimi at Spa a few years ago was legal given the prevailing rules, something that changed my opinion of the incident. So keep ’em coming.

    1. Also, I love the headline – it gives the answer and conclusion, and meaningfully entices us into reading the article.

    2. @phylyp Agreed, F1 would be pretty boring without some controversy now and then and cases like this also certainly deserve thorough analysis.

      By the way, conspiracy theories can be true so I would never dismiss one just because it is, well, a conspiracy theory and smart people are supposed to laugh about them. It is a good idea to analyse each case separately. I usually try to understand if the theory makes sense ie. if the “conspirators” have gained something that outweighs the negative side effects or risks involved. In this case Hamilton had already secured the drivers’ title and Mercedes would have won the Constructors’ without winning the race, too. So this one fails the conspiracy test.

      1. @girts – good point about analysing conspiracy theories in terms of “who benefits?”

      2. @girts
        (..) and Mercedes would have won the Constructors’ without winning the race, too. So this one fails the conspiracy test. – Shhhttt.. Don’t say this too loud, VER-FBoys might hear you.

        1. True, but Bottas would have lost 4th place in the WDC ranking if Verstappen had won the race.
          Not saying this would proof any conspiracies though.

        2. The IS a commercial website – people are really dumb if they think that clicks don’t count… or that articles should only conform to their version of events/beliefs, no matter how wacky they might be! Thanks of the material and analysis Keith! keep it coming ;-)

          1. @boysfromthedwarf
            True. You probably wanted to reply to Phylyp or Girts.

    3. Just wait until we get the Star Struggler article (after we rehashed the current views over and over again), @phylyp.

      How can Verstappen be a Star, the weigh-out is part of the weekend.
      How can Verstappen NOT be a Star; he had a genuine on-track overtake on all Mercedes and Ferrari drivers (must be the first time this has happened in a long time).

      1. @coldfly – oh yeah, I look forward to that. :-)

        Off-topic: although I expect to see a few names that haven’t graced the star list in a while, Vandoorne and Ericsson come to mind.

      2. “(..) he had a genuine on-track overtake on all Mercedes and Ferrari drivers (must be the first time this has happened in a long time).” – The so manyth orange pointing this out. Please don’t mention that the RB was actually the fastest car in Brazil come race day and also don’t mention the fact that HAM was on 16 laps older tyres. It wasn’t even a fight.

        As usual, FBoy tries to imply his subject of devotion managed to get to 1st while 4 of his rivals were having a better car at their disposal. Get real.

        1. Get real…. What about the second merc and the two Ferrari. And since when is a good strategy undoing great performance?
          Wake up.. Times are changing and fact bending is old.

          1. What about the 2nd merc and the two FERs? Didn’t I acknowledge those were real overtakes? Yes, I did.
            And the strategy of RB didn’t undo the performances of VER and RIC, where did you see me say that? But the strategy wasn’t exceptional at all BTW. After VER passed RAI and VET, he couldn’t overtake HAM but was faster. So obvious thing to do for RB is stay out longer than HAM, knowing they are much easier on their tyres than the MER et voilà, you get yourself a nice lead and once you pitted, you got yourself 16L-fresher tyres than HAM, resulting in being 1s/lap faster and being able to pass him on the straight on top speed.

            No fact bending here mate, i’ll leave that to you oranges.

            Ziggo.

        2. Mr unknown (krxx), you must be colourblind; I’m clearly yellow.

          And not surprisingly you totally missed the point I made!!!
          Whatever @keithcollantine writes there will always be extreme myopic ‘fans’ (like you) who shout the loudest without even understanding what has been said :P

          1. No, I did not miss your point. You just disguised your real point that’s all, and now you try to act like you didn’t. Try to mock and downplay the “weigh-out” incident and misrepresenting the overtaking bit (and on top of that, emphasizing the ‘achievement’ in parentheses). You abuse one non-driving incident, as if that’s the (only) reason not to give him the ‘Star Award’, to cleaverly conceal the fact that your hero made a driver error that cost him a victory in the best car of the day, and that that should be enough to not hand him the ‘Star Award’.
            It’s all too well-known you’re an orange.

            So you are clearly yellow too, yes, probably needing dutch courage all the time.
            @coldfly

          2. reread my post krxx, and if not apologising to me, at least go back in your corner and feel ashamed.

            I normally don’t explain my sarcastic comments, but I’ll make an exception for you (in the hope that it will open your eyes).
            – I replied to @phylyp‘s (also sarcastic) comment that the ‘firestorm’ is far from over.
            – I referred to the standard Star/Struggler article which is still to be published by Keith;
            – Keith can either make him a Star or a Struggler, and I showed ‘reasons’ for both cases why the firestorm will go on. Including undoubtedly your view:

            How can Verstappen be a Star, the weigh-out is part of the weekend.

            But I did not count on some commenters to be so myopic that they even start kicking against a comment which is in line with their own views.

            Not sure if it will resolve all issues but it might be a small step in your healing process; happy to help ;)

          3. And I’d suggest to re-read my comment. Obviously the ‘concealing part’ didn’t get through.
            I got your first, ‘sarcastic’, comment the first time already, but like I explained before, you hide your true message behind it. Bc like I said, you are well-known VER-FBoy.

            And no, that’s not my view. It’s not the weigh-out, it’s the driver error that should exclude VER from being the star. Also already mentioned in my former comment.

            So think before accusing someone from being something he’s not, especially if you are ;)

      3. Yes, impressive thinking about it, going from last to 6th is typical with those cars, but not passing both ferrari and both mercedes.

  6. This article simply confirms that, for some reason, there is some obsession for Ocon. The way it is written is so biased. What has Ocon proven in F1 ? already 2.5 seasons and he crashes quite often. In Singapore he gave no space to Perez. Contact was inevitable and he lost out. In Austin, he crashed into Leclerc which passed unnoticed because a few corners later Grosjean took Leclerc out of the race. In Mexico Ocon could and should have prevented contact with Hulkenberg and to some extent with Gasly. And in Brazil … I can’t even believe people can defend his move. Yes, he’s got every right to unlapped himself. But he forced his breaking as though he was fighting for position and after turning left he still throttled up even the Verstappen (in the side) had again half a car ahead.

    And the comparison with Perez, really ???? Yes he has outqualified Perez by a good margin but just check race pace … it is often worse than other rivals including Perez. There is some mention that in Austin the point difference would have been down to 1. Well … if the brakes in Mexico and the engine in France had respected Perez he would have score 10 points. The point is that he remains 9 points behind Perez and that is a big margin.

    The point is that Ocon has never beaten his teammate in F1 in three seasons. A (potential) top driver would be expected to do that, don’t you think. See Leclerc and Gasly as examples.

    I hope this criticism to the article is not censored …

    1. You know you’ve written a good article when you have people claiming bias and then having conspirators rants about censorships……

  7. when Verstappen came looking for him after the race, Ocon pointed out he had been quicker at the time and grinned. Knowing Verstappen as he does, Ocon probably guessed how his rival would react

    F1 is as much mind games as it is about technical ability and driving talent. On that one point, the scorecard reads Ocon 1 Verstappen 0. Ocon pushed Max’s buttons perfectly, and came out looking a victim.

    If Max can up his mental fortitude (and no, utter confidence in his abilities is not fortitude), he will easily be a(n even more) formidable driver on the grid.

    1. I don’t agree with the 1-0 analysis. Ocon came out looking like a little boy there who got a lesson from the bigger man. And he knows it and on top of that he has a year to think about it.

      1. I thought it’s Max who acted childish and came out looking like a little boy. Ocon, irrespective of whether to predominantly blame or not, has played the victim card to perfection.

        It’s certainly Ocon 1 – 0 Max as far as playing mind game is concerned.

        1. I agree 1-0 to Ocon – when a bully wants a fight and is trying to provoke you, smile in their face… It drives them nuts! And Ocon was clearly pleased with himself, playing Max at his own game…

        2. Ok so in your book playing a victim makes you the winner. Well in my book in makes you a loser.

          Where I’m from you stand up for yourself like a man and not call in help from officials over a little pushing.

          And Ocon knows it. He feels it. He is just a little player that is going to sit out. Only getting attention annoying the big boys.

          1. @anunaki
            No mate, you got it wholely wrong! In my book, when grown-ups acts like little babies, it makes them losers. And Ocon is the winner not because he played the victim card, but due to his clever mind game tactic which went into Max’s head to make him act like a kid!

          2. How can you say going straight to someone to confront him is acting like a kid? It takes a man to do that.

            Most people don’t have the guts to do that. People like Ocon. Tough on the team radio, but seeking shelter behind FIA people in real life situations.

            Max is straight both on track and off track. Just the way I like it.

          3. @anunaki Where I’m from, striking back is considered immature (at best) and criminal (at worst) unless one is genuinely in danger of injury (which Esteban clearly didn’t think he was) and letting officials do their job is considered the mature method of handling the matter.

            It is wise to be aware that different places, and different backgrounds, have very different expectations about what is mature and immature behaviour.

      2. Max tends to like to bully and pressure other races who have much to lose since he is so aggressive and has relatively less to lose comparatively.

        Ocon gave him a taste of his own medicine.

    2. Feels a bit like winning the battle but losing the war considering Verstappen is in a a top 3 team and Ocon is soon to be a reserve driver…

      1. Game set and match!
        That’s a perfect touché!

      2. He lost the war already than in that case, in which case taking a battle away from Max is better than not.

      3. @petebaldwin Ocon’s playing the long game. Reserve in 2019, seat at what he hopes will be the best team on the grid in 2020 (definitely Red Bull is likely to be at that point) unless Bottas improves considerably, in line to eventually become Hamilton’s successor if he plays his cards right once there.

        Much like he was trying to play the long game by letting his tyres breathe instead of wrecking them behind Verstappen any longer – until Verstappen hit him due to short-termism.

  8. He was NOT on mediums. He was on softs and Ocon was not allowed to race him.
    He worked hard to earn those softs. He raced half of the race on super-softs and in round 43 (42 for Ocon) his SOFT tyres were merely 8 laps old. Being on fresh super-softs and lapped it’s a bit silly to speak about himself as having a faster pace. Verstappen showed him he was only able to pass him with DRS and took back the corner (indeed for ego reasons). Ocon was then NOT allowed to do anything in the corners because he was a backmarker. Somehow that’s something most don’t seem to realize and treat this as a normal driving incident.
    If Ocon was not a backmarker it would have been Max getting a penalty. So that proves that THAT is the reason he was given 3 points on his license and 10 seconds pit penalty.

  9. I find it funny that Red Bull is pushing the existence of some kind of conspiracy, when Helmut Marko humilliated a Toro Rosso driver in front of the cameras because he didn’t let Vettel through. In a Free Practice session.

    And we’ve seen plenty of examples of Toro Rosso drivers being VERY nice to Red Bull drivers who were about to overtake them for position. The opposite (making overtakes very difficult) has happened too (and mostly involved a driver who was leaving Red Bull or Toro Rosso, go figure).

    1. To be fair to Red Bull and Max; if that was Ricciardo in Ocon’s position trying to unlap himself, Max would have still closed the door and risked crashing. And RB would have sill defended him.

      1. To be fair, any driver that was not Ocon would not have illegally challenged the race leader the way he did. It just overwhelmingly doesn’t happen, and the drivers all know the etiquette when it comes to leaving the race leaders alone. So not only would DR not have challenged any lead driver that way, let alone his own teammate, if he did for some bizarre reason then of course Horner et al would have defended Max. Max did nothing wrong, and took the line he did because he had every reason to expect he was not going to be dive bombed as the race leader.

        1. Max would have; and his fans would be applauding him for it.

          1. They would. Those of us who aren’t “fans” would say he was in the wrong just like Ocon.

        2. @robbie, what do you mean by “illegally challenged the race leader”?

          The regulations quite clearly do not stop drivers from unlapping themselves against a driver on the lead lap, so saying that it was “illegal” is quite wrong (whether it was sensible is another debate).

          1. Unlappjng yourself is not illegal, but the way Ocon did it certainly is as the FIA pointed out with the 10s S&G.

          2. Backmarker are not allowed to hold up the leaders in the race. End of story. Every move that is costing the race leader time is therefore against the regulations. It’s actually quite simple.

          3. No it’s not simple. Verstappen was like one of those drivers who decides to accelerate when you’re overtaking them. He had been holding Ocon up for a lap or two, Ocon asked if he could unlap himself, the team confirmed he could (as in line with FIA regulations) but when he tried, VER blocked. This is what’s so lopsided with the article, it accuses Ocon of having a personal motivation, when the facts – inciuding those in the article itself – indicate that the driver who decided to make it personal was Verstappen.

            A glance at the data from the two drivers’ races makes it abundantly obvious that this was a collision of circumstances rather than conspiracy. A collision between a race leader nursing his tyres and a backmarker hunting a point for 10th place who’d just left the pits on fresh rubber.

            So why did the race leader decide to stop nursing his tyres? We all know the answer: Verstappen didn’t want to be passed by anyone, not even a back marker, and perhaps especially by Ocon. It’s true Ocon can’t hinder the race leader, but he wouldn’t have done had the race leader not decided to shift his priority from winning the race to putting Ocon in his place.

          4. @david-br I find your comment to be the most sensible one in this entire debate.

            I’d like to add that if the roles were reversed and it was Max unlapping himself I have no doubt he would have also tried to make that move on the inside and if someone slammed the door like that on him he would be crying foul the loudest and looking for a fight after the race still. Max would be calling the stewards stupid for giving him the penalty too as he had done in the past.

          5. @anon see @silfen ‘s comment.

          6. @david-br Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that Verstappen was allowed to do so and Ocon wasn’t. After being held off in turn one, Ocon should have yielded and waited for another, better, opportunity.

            Was it wise from Verstappen, may be not, but then again, may be he new he would have to pass Ocon again after a few laps when his tyres wore off and decided he didn’t want to lose time with Hamilton close behind him. Or just keep Ocon behind as a buffer to Hamilton.

        3. (@robbie) Um bit over the top? Also remember Verstappen did take out Ricciardo at least once (twice I think) remember, yes he did apologise though.

        4. “(..) and took the line he did because he had every reason to expect he was not going to be dive bombed as the race leader.” – Hahahahhahahaha, sure, whatever makes you feel safe, hahahahahahhahhah.
          Ocon was in front of VER going into turn 1, and come turn 2 was still more than 3/4 car length aside VER. I’ve heard some people VER should have assumed OCO was still there, but it’s not even a question of having to assume anything, the tyres and nose of the FI were actually visible for VER FCOL and of course the Merc engine audible.
          And VER didn’t get dive bombed you FBoy, he slammed the door shut. Quit making things up.

  10. Best review article I have read on the matter.

  11. I can find myself in this article, but out the mouth of Keith it feels like a good maker after his ridiculous article earlier this week

  12. I’ve been impressed by Ocon since his debut, but in recent times I think it’s been a little tarnished. Listening to Gasly’s interview on the F1 podcast, makes me wander what caused Ocon to have it in for Gasly. I suppose you’d give the benefit of the doubt in his collisions/arguments with Perez over the past couple of years, but they’ve happened a few too many times. A disastrous race in Mexico, sure all drivers have them, and then a major misjudgement in Brazil, if his move was definitive into turn 1, it would have been fine, but he should have backed out when Verstappen was ahead into turn 2 (though I maintain that Max should have given him room). Either way, he still punted off the leader, if this was a battle for position, it would be a racing incident. These are young men who are at different stages of maturity, and they’re not here to make friends with other drivers, but it does raise the question if he under the pressure of a championship battle, would his temperament be a detriment, much in the same way that Vettel has struggled this year?
    In essence, it’s the time of year that people need to remember a great drive/result, especially if he’s going to be spending a year on the sidelines and for all his speed and consistency, it would be a shame for Ocon to be remembered as the guy who took Verstappen out the Brazilian GP.

    1. (..) but it does raise the question if he under the pressure of a championship battle, would his temperament be a detriment, (..) – Ocon’s driving has never made me question this, but VERs instead has, and in fact it has already been the case. Until at least midway July, RB and indeed VER had not conceded the WC, though RIC was still leading him.

  13. So at Singapore Romain Grosjean, from Ferrari’s B team, nearly lost Hamilton the race, when the championship was still not decided.
    Now Ocon takes out the race leader and gifts the win to the team that has his F1 career in their hands.
    I fear these incidents are only going to become more frequent as teams are becoming more dependent on the big manufacturers to survive in F1. Brazil generated enough controversy, imagine the drama if Verstappen had been in the fight for the title…

  14. @keithcollantine
    Max never used the medium tire. Ss and s red and yellow only.
    At the time ocon took him out the soft were 9 laps old.

    1. For the first time ever, you’ve made a comment based on actual facts/data (though I think VER had those tyres for 8 laps). Progress orange, progress.

      One thing though, OCO did not take VER out. It was VERs own short circuitry.
      Why don’t you guys take your hero for what he is, instead of portraying him as a driver he isn’t? That road only leads to disappointment.

    2. At the time ocon took him out

      You mean at the time Max drove across the front of Ocons car.

      How about we just have a new rule: Once you are lapped you just pull into the garage and park it. Your position at the time becomes your race result. Then people can stop complaining just because in 4 years of F1 Max still hasn’t learned to give another car space.

  15. Everybody knows that Toto Wolf is working hard to get Ocon a seat back in F1, comes 2020, if not earlier than that. Mercedes needed to score 13 more points than Ferrari in Sao Paulo to earn the Team Championship. Ocon, a Mercedes backed driver, was probably interested in working for Mercedes and getting ahead of VER so to give HAM a chance to catch up. I don’t believe that Ocon intended to crash onto VER, but to make him lose time.

    It is impossible not to realize the context between Ocon and Mercedes when assessing what happened in Interlagos.

    1. @svianna, the problem with your theory is that you seem to be trying to retrospectively fit events to your narrative, because you seem to be making a lot of assumptions in your post.

      It relies a heck of a lot on the assumption that Ocon was somehow to know that he was going to be close enough to Verstappen in the first place, then it relies on him knowing that Verstappen was going to then slow down by more than a second a lap from his previous pace to be able to allow Ocon to catch him in the first place – so, now he does not need to just know where both Ferrari and both Mercedes drivers were, it also relies on him being able to predict the future and know what lap times Verstappen would be setting.

      It also then relies on everybody in that situation also then being able to predict the next 31 laps and know that Ricciardo, who had just pitted for fresh tyres, was only 11 seconds off the lead and was gaining on the leading drivers by over a second a lap – he was harrying Vettel at the time and passed him a couple of laps later – would end up getting stuck behind Bottas and wouldn’t have a chance to catch up to and pass Hamilton, who was only 8 second ahead of Ricciardo at the time that the collision occurred.

      Furthermore, you are then assuming that Hamilton, having been lapping slower than Verstappen and having problems with obvious tyre graining, would then be able to catch up to Verstappen despite being on a harder compound that was 16 laps older than the one Verstappen was using – and then what? Somehow overtake a car that was capable of going much faster than him and on tyres that were in much better shape, and then somehow keep him there for about 30 more laps?

      There are too many points that only work based on knowledge that wasn’t available to the drivers or the teams at the time and only looks possible in retrospect.

      1. Yes, don’t think he could’ve realistically held up verstappen, and don’t forget the blue flag rules: if he had been just in front of him for a long period of time, he’d have been forced to let him by, even just less than 1,5 sec gap is enough for that, that doesn’t mean a different conspiracy isn’t possible.

  16. My opinion – Ocon DGAF.

  17. He marked Verstappen’s card in anticipation of future fights.

    Good lord the only thing I don’t want in a few year’s time is a flashback to Vettelesque spins in a championship scenario committed by Ocon in desperation against Verstappen.

  18. Call me biased, but: ‘Ocon pointed out he had been quicker at the time and grinned’ – that is key here. He had just (helped) cost someone a race win. This response is the sort of thing you’d expect from someone who doesn’t care, in fact enjoys what he has caused. Verstappen pushing him is still not acceptable, but becomes slightly more understandable, and you have to wonder which of the two can really be considered the immature one…

    1. Interesting discussion below this article and the other Ocon one about his character. Bearing in mind he has rifts with Verstappen, Gasly (who used to be his best mate) and Perez, you have to wonder about his character. After their shared F3 season autosport’s F3 writer noted how every driver in the paddock was friends with Verstappen bar one…
      All speculative, of course, but it does give food for thought.

      1. @hahostolze Agreed. It is really only this morning with the addition of some articles here that I have a clearer picture of the MV/EO relationship. I have said a few times here since the weekend that Ocon had every opportunity to diffuse the situation before it came to Max pushing him. As with you I am not condoning Max’s behaviour, nor am I shocked and appalled by it, but it does take two to tango, and many many drivers without a chip on their shoulder (if that’s what Ocon has) would have immediately apologized on the radio and/or gone to the offended driver to apologize after the race. This all to say as well I hardly think we need worry that this is about to become a pattern for Max. This was very unique and a bit of a perfect storm of ingredients that includes some history between the two. Ocon would simply have not gone near LH or VB if they were leading in the same scenario.

        1. @Robbie Apologising would require Esteban to believe he had done anything wrong, and I don’t think he did (or does). I think he believed and believes Max was the one making all the errors and owing apologies.

          Max surely believes the reverse.

          This is why nobody apologised or in any other way compromised for the other.

      2. All bullies are the same. I remember the psycho’s at school… they’d corner the other kids and push them about a bit, trying to provoke a response. The ones that lashed out got a battering, and the blame for throwing the first punch… the ones that got away were the ones that stayed calm and smiled in their faces.

        I’m sure Ocon was pleased with himself. Getting one (or two, counting the community service) over your clearly unhinged nemesis, in full view of the cameras, with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. Beautiful. Max is an idiot for falling into the trap.

        1. Or Max felt that robbed, which he was, that he had a human emotion.

  19. I’ll take Verstappen’s attitude and unforgiving will to always win any time over Hamilton’s calculated risk attitude. F1 was quickly becoming one of the most unexciting sports the past years. With Verstappen on the track, and his eagerness and fantastic talent he has brought excitement back into F1.

    It’s easy to say he is young, and that he has to learn a lot. But at the same time it would be good to acknowledge that he is by far the best driver out there given his success with an inferior car. He is phenomenal, never compromises to win, and yes he makes mistakes. That makes him human. I think we can use more drivers like him on the track.

  20. There is no conspiracy, we all know what Ocon aspires to and we know exactly why he let Hamilton past and why he attacked Verstappen as agressive as possible with no care for the risks. Verstappen probably would have done the same if the roles where reversed.

    I do wonder however if hes digging his own grave, Judging by how happy he is with Bottas i highly doubt Toto is looking for a loose cannon.

    1. “(..) a loose cannon. – Hahahah, the pot calling the kettle black.

      Ziggo.

  21. It’s hard to have sympathy for Max given the amount of times he’s wrecked others. I know this was with a lap down car, however when you barge into as many people as Max has, you should not be surprised when it happens to you.

    This win for Hamilton is sort of payback for Australia when the Ferrari junior team Haas purposely caused a VSC helping Ferrari.

    1. Haas did not decide to have gremlins in Australia, let alone engage in a conspiracy for it.

  22. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtbTi91AmpQ

    The usual level-headed Peter Windsor nails it here.

    Completely brainless and unnecessary defence from Verstappen.

    1. No doubt, Max got carried away.

      1. I disagree with Windsor. I was prompted to watch this video the other day, and I think Windsor is off the mark on several counts. One of them is that he claims Max should have somehow known Ocon would do what he did, yet doesn’t allow that Ocon should have also known what he was in for taking on Max. Anyway, we now know more and I don’t want to spend much more time right now running down the other things I disagree with Windsor on on this topic. Maybe later I could just paste what I said about this video the other day.

        1. “I disagree with Windsor” – Yes we know, that goes without saying. We all know that robbie disagrees with any opinion that goes against VER.

        2. One of them is that he claims Max should have somehow known Ocon would do what he did, yet doesn’t allow that Ocon should have also known what he was in for taking on Max

          You’re saying that Ocon should have realised that Max was going to crash into him?

          1. Ocon probably KNEW, because that’s what Max does…

          2. You’re saying that Ocon should have realised that Max was going to crash into him?

            Im pretty sure the other 19 drivers on the grid understand that Verstappen won’t back off. So the chances of a coming together would be higher.

          3. It shouldn’t be necessary for any driver to assume that another is going to break the regulations when there is no point in their doing so.

    2. It’s notable that both Peter Windsor and Joe Saward lay the blame on Verstappen more than Ocon. I’m going with accumulated wisdom on this one. I also suspect the issue comes down to a knew-jerk love of hierarchy from most of the pit and most journalists, who think the back markers should just act as doormats for the leading teams. Kind of sad.

    3. So, What if…
      What if Ocon got in front of Max, and went fast enough for 3-4 laps to create a gap, to then lose the tyre-advantage and start causing problems for Verstappen to get close enough to get blue flags, but not far enough out of the way to prevent destroying tires? When would the marshals wave blue flags?
      The F1 midfield are lucky the lapped cars aren’t taken out of the race (like in some cycling-criteriums), so IMHO the lapped need to be extra carefull with unlapping manoeuvres. And certainly not act smug if they took out another car in the leading lap. If I were the decision taker, Max and Esteban could’ve done the punishment together and for a week instead of two days…

      1. @George At Singapore, the flags were waved at the 1.2 second mark. However, this number varies on a per-race basis, based on what is believed to be necessary for a lapping move to work (Brazil’s would likely have been similar, due to being a rather twisty track, but tracks with longer straights might have more gap).

  23. Yes that’s how it was. Ocon showing off and old blood coming to the fore.

    1. absolutely @balue and @keithcollantine.
      anyone who hasnt seen it take to You Tube and look back at some of the fighting in their F3 stint as rivals. Its a Straight Repeat.

  24. This is a very one-sided view. Ocon had a good race reason to get past Verstappen, but Verstappen had no good race reason to block his attempt. Agreed? That is what the start of your article says after all. Ocon had to keep a quick pace on the new tyres, Verstappen was nursing. So seen in that way, the ‘personal motivation’ is all Verstappen‘s to begin with, not Ocon’s. Once Verstappen blocked the inside line, your argument is that he should have backed off immediately? I don’t see why. Your suggestion that Ocon had to stick behind VER despite being fasted just because VER wanted it that way. Really? That’s how motot racing works?! My own view remains that, first, Ocon was entitled to at least complete the move he started, one with no intention to harm VER’s race; second, Verstappen turned the unlapping into a race – basically because he doesn’t like being passed, maybe because it was Ocon; and third Verstappen caused the accident by cutting across Turn 2 rather than allowing Ocon space.

  25. Ocon is not and never will be competition to Verstappen.

    1. @pietkoster
      Except that one time he beat him to a championship…

      1. With more reliability problems, that I recall, for verstappen?

        1. Doesn’t count as beating to me, beating to me is about speed and consistency, as in hamilton > rosberg even in 2016, verstappen > ricciardo in 2017 and verstappen not much better than ricciardo in 2018 due to the mistakes at start.

          1. To beat Verstappen , you have to be better. Ocon is less material as a driver. There are only two drivers at the most wanted list. Hamilton and Verstappen. The rest is basically Hamilton and Verstappen fodder. All the teams and all the experts now that. There is no point in denying.

  26. Even your photo shows clearly that Verstappen chopped Ocon off. Rather negates the first premise of your article. The red mist was in the Red Bull. It was Verstappen who decided he was a ‘winner’ and his old rival should not pass, indeed should get out of the way.

    Stills and video show the same. Trying to excuse Verstappen’s uncontrolled aggression is not going to help him.

    1. Defending your position is never ever an act of aggression.
      Strange remark.. do you understand F1?

      1. Some methods of defending a position can be acts of aggression. This is made quite clear in Article 16 of the Sporting Regulations, which lists specific types of defence as being penalty-worthy.

  27. I want to see the onboard from Ocon for the whole previous 2 laps. I’v been looking for it, but can’t find it. I want to see how close Ocon was to Verstappen for those 2 laps and so how much time Verstappen had to realise that Ocon might try to pass him. If it’s obvious from the footage that Ocon was close and trying to get by for 2 whole minutes then Max’s judgement is more suspect. If Ocon wasn’t that close, but then just somehow got a good drive off the last corner, then Max is much less to blame because Ocon’s pass attempt was more of a surprise.

    1. You can see the videos leading to the accident from both driver’s perspectives (with audio) @ https://www.gpfans.com/en/articles/3372/video-verstappen-ocon-incident-in-full/

  28. Good article, I disagree on one point. From the perspective I seen the incident from I’d say Verstappen turned into/shut the door on Ocon. Ocon had no were left to go although I would still call it more of a racing incident with the blame leaning towards Verstappen as he was in control.

    1. Ocon t boned him… he was behind, Max was on the racing line. Every F1 driver interveid ( WC material) agreed on that and the stewards to. But of course your insight’s are way better ;)

  29. – LOL, how would getting shoved by a sore loser make you look less sympathetic?

    1. @lawrence Some people weren’t impressed by Esteban’s conduct during that incident – about evenly divided by people who thought he was egging Max on and people who thought he should have punched Max back (regardless of the likely consequences).

  30. Good article.

    One thing that is assumed is that Max would have caught up to Ocon after a few laps and have to re-pass him.

    Given he was driving more slowly to preserve his tyres whilst maintaining his gap to Hamilton etc, I can’t see how we could assume that. As a result, any lapped car that was still aiming for points should have the right to pass the leader so Ocon was within his rights to pass him.

    Would he have passed Hamilton in the same circumstances – absolutely, but it would have been far more likely that Hamilton would have let him through to protect his own position.

  31. Great write up Keith! Oconspiracy? People having nothing better to do if they think it was nothing other than Ocon wanting to un-lap himself and get 1 up on Max.
    I laughed when they collected each other! They were both careless. Ocon more in the wrong though. Max shouldn’t of sooked so much either.

  32. To beat Verstappen , you have to be better. Ocon is less material as a driver. There are only two drivers at the most wanted list. Hamilton and Verstappen. The rest is basically Hamilton and Verstappen fodder. All the teams and all the experts know that. There is no point in denying.

  33. I think is was clearly a Verstappen mistake, he fought a position that didn’t matter, but i blame more the team, if what Ocon say is true… that Force India told him by radio to pass Verstappen, then why Red Bull team didn’t let Verstappen know about that? every team have access to other team radio conversations.
    So out of 10 points, 2 are for Verstappen for not being aware of the situation and 8 for the team for not tell Verstappen the situation. Ocon move was very decent.

  34. Not quite. The FERs started on softs. VET had on top of that a sensory problem on his car, affecting the performance and had to adjust his driving to it. BOT was overtaken later on; it is well-known the Mercs have more tyre wear than the RBs. HAM was only overtaken after the stops, when he had 16L older mediums than the softs of VER. On the straight already. And besides, MER were focused on keeping FER behind them, not fighting with others.
    The RBs were the quickest cars on Sunday.

  35. There is an item elsewhere on Racefans at the moment saying the tyres start to have problems after three corners following another car. If true, Estaban had been following Max for several corners by this point. As such, if he’d managed to get ahead even for a corner or two (it would have been more given that Esteban was still just behind Max at the detector point for DRS #2) would have helped the Force India’s tyres, thus gaining a small advantage in the fight for 11th or 10th.

    Even a temporary unlap had strategic value to Esteban, regardless of his opponent. The past history wouldn’t have hurt though…

  36. And 2 years later, I think Max could have died because of what he did to Ocon after the race…

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