Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Imola, 2020

Verstappen says critics of his language “don’t need to make it bigger than it is”

2020 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen admitted his choice of words when following his collision with Lance Stroll in Portugal was “not correct” but says those who objected to it “don’t need to make it bigger than it is.”

The Red Bull driver called his rival a “retard” and a “Mongol” – the latter a discriminatory term applied to suffers of Down’s Syndrome – in a profane outburst on his radio.

Asked about his comments in today’s FIA press conference, Verstappen said: “I never intended to offend anyone. That’s never what I wanted.”

He said he made the comments “in the heat of the moment.”

“When you are driving at such speeds things like that can happen. I don’t say that the words I chose were the right ones, I also know that they are not correct but, once again, I never meant to offend anyone with that.”

Verstappen said he spoke to Stroll shortly after their collision, which occured during the second practice session at the Autodromo do Algarve.

“I was swearing at Lance but then, of course, I saw him straightaway after. And that’s what racing drivers are as well, we can be angry at each other.

“But within five minutes, when we talk to each other and look each other in the eyes, then it’s forgotten. So I think sometimes things get a bit heated up from the outside while I never meant to hurt anyone in particular.

“So I don’t think they need to make it bigger than it is. I also know that it was not correct. I cannot change it but of course you learn from it and we’ll do better.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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70 comments on “Verstappen says critics of his language “don’t need to make it bigger than it is””

  1. Arrogance is astounding. Like father like son.

    1. This comment says a great deal about you, and nothing about the driver in question…

    2. Did he offend you? I couldn’t care less about this small row.

    3. Your anti-Verstappen comments are getting a bit old.

    4. And there the media goes again. 4th or 5th outing on this supposedly racing fans channel. When are the media going to take responsibility for their part in todays world. Its a disgrace

  2. But you didn’t learn from the last time you called somebody a “Mongol”, did you, Max?

    (2017 US grand prix, FIA steward Garry Connolly)

    1. But it got totally worse at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

  3. He recognizes it wasn’t correct and try to do better. Good. Lets move on.

    1. It’s good he addressed it and admitted he was wrong but I don’t buy this ‘heat of the moment’ excuse. He has to activate the radio in order to speak, doesn’t he? They don’t just have an open channel the whole time. Back in mugello I remember thinking it was odd he was on the radio swearily disparaging his team for the engine problem he was having, all before he’d even reached the first corner!

      It makes me think it’s more than just a snap reaction (and even if it was, you don’t or you shouldn’t reach for slurs like he does), it’s part of his ‘normal’ discourse with his engineer. I’ve said this elsewhere, but it really seems like he’s missed a part of his education and needs to grow up – sadly he’s not alone among many other adults who should know better.

      1. @frood19 That time before he’d even reached the first corner was indeed in the heat of the moment (does it get any more heat of the moment right off the start?) as an extension of some stressful moments leading up to those remarks due to issues they were having.

        As to ‘he has to activate the radio in order to speak, doesn’t he’? Let me just point out too, that F1 as the ones who decide what we get to hear, could have kept his unfortunate language from the public entirely if they had just so chosen. They could have kept his comments away from public consumption and taken him aside and lectured him, even fined him, even heavily if they wanted, and yet instead they chose to make his remarks available for the controversy of it.

        The lesson here is not just that Max nor anyone else should use such language, but that even in the heat of the moment on an F1 radio between a drive and his engineer, that is not private, so drivers beware. Alsonso’s GP2 remark about Honda’s pu at the time, by his own words, was not meant for public consumption. F1 made it so though.

        They didn’t have to let Max’s unfortunate choice of words hurt more people than it needed to. Even Stroll needn’t have heard it.

  4. I think fair enough, it’s between him and Lance really so long as it’s censored on the broadcast for younger ears. I’d like to think I wouldn’t say such things, but then again I’ve not been driving in an F1 car. He does get quite angry though doesn’t he!

    1. @john-h it was more the comments he made afterwards, where he dismissed the criticism of his comments by saying it was “not his problem”, that made the situation worse. In that instance, it is harder to use the argument that it was “just the heat of the moment” given that he’d been out of the car for some time.

      1. To be fair, I don’t think the media was owed and explanation by Verstappen, so him being short with them about it isn’t really something I can fault him on.

        End of day, these radio transmissions might be publicly broadcast, but are still a private conversation between drivers and the pit wall. So I can understand that just because you got angry and said some bad words, you don’t really feel like you owe the media an explanation on it.

        1. @aiii Radio hasn’t been considered a private conversation by the authorities since Bahrain 2006, when Giancarlo Fisichella got told off for swearing on the radio (how long ago that feels now), and the feedback from broadcasters meant live radio (which had been trialled that race) could not be broadcast… …until F1TV. What happened last week was considerably worse, and it’s a word that in Britain can’t even be broadcast after the watershed, so offensive is it considered. It’s the sort of thing that can get live radio banned again.

    2. A lot angrier than…Vettel in Turkey 2010/Russia 2016/Mexico 2016? (don’t hate me for this)

    3. @john-h It couldn’t be censored; radio on F1TV is live…

      1. Good point @alianora-la-canta, my mistake.
        I’ve changed my opinion on this, no adult should say these things at work. If I said that to a colleague I’d be facing a disciplinary action no doubt. Seems like it won’t go away anytime soon anyway after the Mongolian embassy have got involved!

  5. was it incorrect that he was swearing? yes
    should he try to do better next time, knowing he is in the spotlight and a rolemodel? yes
    is it a pity that we live in a world where people feel so easily offended and make things bigger than they are? also yes.

    1. Disagree with your last point. If you had Downs syndrome you would not appreciate being demeaned in such a way and it is proper people are pulling up, especially as the learning disabled are amongst the most vulnerable in society, often without a voice.
      Red Bull as a brand clearly are not going to associate with any such language.

      1. I’ve never actually heard from someone with Downs syndrome that they were upset by it. It seems to always people who are offended on behalf of others. Yet when talk with people from those groups, the opinion is often mixed.

        It’s almost like they are real people, who can have diverse opinions, rather than props for others.

        1. Well my family member was. Just because they are disabled doesn’t mean they do not understand or get upset. These terms have been used in the playground by bullies for years. They have heard them all before.
          Try being slight more emphatic rather than blindly hero worshipping a millionaire racing driver who should know better.

          1. *Empathetic

        2. The reason you sometimes hear from others is because the mentally disabled often times can’t communicate or understand what is being said, even though it affects them. They need advocates to even get what they need to survive in life. By you being so uncaring because they can’t communicate shows your lack of compassion AND understanding for anyone that doesn’t meet your standards as a “person”. Educate yourself a little better on the subject and show some respect for those that deserve it. They didn’t make the choice to be the way they are but must live with the ignorance of the un-educated and uncaring individuals such as yourself. Just be nice, we all have our own special needs, but them more than others. BTW, I have a nephew that has down syndrome and I have been his voice and advocate since he was born, 34 years ago and will not stop doing so. Max needs to be more sensitive when he has 70 million people watching a race. To me his comments are unacceptable in any situation.

      2. I fully understand your point and wouldn’t partially disagree except my life experience has been different. I’ve known close to 200 people with Downs (family) and at least 50% of those folks could care less what people said or the words they used. My sister was one of them.

    2. If I was a racing driver, I would’ve stayed calm and trying not to swear on the radio at every time there’s an incident.

  6. Last week his response was “not my problem” (If disabled people or Mongolians found his comments offensive)
    I am glad to see he has reflected on his use of potentially racist and disablist insults.
    I hope he isn’t saying this simply in response to pressure from Red Bull, clearly the brand could never tolerate high profile staff using such terms in world wide media.

  7. I believe drivers have a right to have raw, adrenaline driven, furious outbursts when communicating with their engineer.

    If the FOM doesn’t want this aired, they should not broadcast these moments.

    End of the day these guys are humans and not robots

    1. What he said over the radio is only part of the problem. The fact that he keeps doubling down on it not being a big deal is a much bigger issue.

      I think it’s astonishing that Red Bull doesn’t seem to have a competent media relations advisor on staff. His response shoud’ve been extremely obvious. All he had to say was that his choice of words was poor and that’ll he’ll trying and do better next time. That’s all he should of said if he didn’t want to make a since apology and people would’ve moved on. Everything else he keeps saying just adds to the problem. You can’t use the words he did and then claim he wasn’t trying to offend anyone.

      1. Yes, this. Also an issue a certain American has as well.

      2. Because it isn’t a big deal.

        1. It is though, I wouldn’t say this at work and expect no reprisal.

    2. @anunaki As long as you accept that this means live radio can no longer be broadcast (as currently happens on F1TV…)

  8. Personally I think it’s disgusting that language such as that should be so near the surface of anyone’s thoughts that they would be spoken in ‘the heat of the moment’. I am not worried so much about swearing, although I wouldn’t choose to swear in public myself. Many people choose swearing to express themselves, however any language choice that uses disability as an insult should be challenged and Max should be apologising unresevedly rather than suggesting that it’s no big deal.

  9. Cars don’t come with a Backspace Key on the dashboard, so you can’t fix up a mistake by pressing that key and deleting the mistake you’ve just made. Tongues also don’t come with a Backspace Key, so you can’t delete the words that have just come out of your mouth.

    1. Tongues can apologize and move on instead of making things worse.

  10. Yes, what Max said was wrong BUT how many athletes have a live mic on them during the heat of competition? Anyone who has ever played sports AND is competitive like these guys are knows that some of the things that come out of your mouth do not represent you or what you stand for.

    Case in point, Richard Sherman(a Stanford alum)’s interview right after the Seahawks win over the 49ers.

    1. Plenty have live mics now. All test matches have stump mics in cricket, in rugby internationals there are mics on the referees, two examples off the top of my head.
      A big part of the issue is when asked, later that day, when back in the paddock, his response when asked if he thought on reflection his words were appropriate was “not my problem”, no apology there now was there?
      He is a grown man, not a school boy.

      1. No argument there, when asked about it later he should have owned up to it! I agree.

    2. Also, it’s not really a live mic as he has to push a button in order to communicate with his engineer. One has to ask why he felt the need to push the button rather than just going on an expletive laced tirade inside his helmet.

  11. In the heat of the moment, we all say things that perhaps we shouldn’t do. Sadly nowadays we are in the snowflake era when just about anything can be taken as a slur against some one!

    1. @maddme You mean the era where you can’t just hurl around derogatory abuse and expect to get away with it because those being attacked are too powerless? Yes, that era has vanished. Verstappen recognized he was wrong in his choice of language (insult) and says he’ll learn from it. Sounds right.

      1. But he won’t learn as he has proved in the past over and over. He has the biggest potty-mouth in the sport and knows he is being recorded, but doesn’t seem to care. When you hear him on the radio, no matter what the issue, half of what he says is bleeped out by the sensors. Yeah, that’s a good role model for you. Grosjean is the same way.

    2. Except people aren’t made because he called someone a snowflake, he used an actual derogatory slur.

    3. @maddme this is nothing to do with “the snowflake era” – that term has always been intended to be a derogatory slur from it’s very inception.

      The term was first coined in the 1860s by John Langdon Down, and he quite clearly intended it to express a sense of racial inferiority (i.e. that those who were afflicted with Down’s syndrome were somehow “regressing” into Mongolians, which he saw as “congenital idiots” and an ethnically inferior race).

      It is a term that has strong racist origins and is intended to be highly derogatory – Down’s own descendents helped campaign in the 1960s to have the term removed, and the World Health Organisation removed the term back in 1965 because of of its racist undertones and associations with neo-Darwinism. It is not a modern phenomenon – people knew what the term was meant to imply and been trying to remove it for close to 60 years now, so this is a change that people have been trying to make for multiple generations.

    4. @maddme We’re in the era where people are expected to take responsibility for the things they say and to respect other people. Those who do neither are considered to have deficient morality. (Ironically the previous era was also described that way by my parents).

  12. I have spent 50 years fighting against the use of the R word because my older sister has Down’s and kids int he 70’s were very intolerant of anyone who was different. The biggest lesson my sister taught me, she didn’t care about people calling her names.

    I’m good with Max’s answer. It was heat of the moment and he learned his lesson. My sister would be good too. Can’t ask her, she doesn’t know who her family is anymore.

    1. Sadly my cousin with Downs is similar. She used to get very upset by the name calling, it was horrible.
      She is one of the happiest, content and most lovely people I have every known, and I feel blessed she is who she is.

      1. My Dad was a founder of an organization created over 50 years ago that today has an annual budget of over $50M to help adults with Downs to live independent, get jobs etc. I have met 100’s of people with Downs and was lucky to be close to a handful. You’re right, they are very special and I believe their purpose is to be teachers to society about intolerance.

        Max happened to get a very public lesson, doesn’t make him a bad person.

        1. I have an autistic sister that got called retard in school, she hated it. I dont agree with your stance of accepting it one bit.

          1. @kpcart That is your right, I am sharing my experience. I appreciate you sharing your experience. One thing I didn’t share was for years the kids called me 1/2 Rxxxx because of my sister. So I know what it is like to be on the receiving end too. I didn’t like what they said to my sister nor me, and got into a few fights with bullies.

            To add a little more color, I also have an autistic son. Luckily he hasn’t faced the name calling etc (yet). I will teach him to ignore such comments the best he can and when he can’t stand up for himself. He has seen me stand up to people in public throwing around the R word. He doesn’t like the energy. I believe I was given the experience with my sister and her friends, so I was better prepared to be a father for my son.

    2. Yeah. Right. Use the wrong words in the wrong place and see where you end up. Good luck.

  13. Verstappen has anger issues.

    He’s said offensive things before and he’ll do it again, he’s talked about “headbutting” people and physically put his hands on Ocon in Brazil.

    There’s no remorse for what he said, he just thinks it’s the problem of anyone who offended by it.

    Jos raised him. Look into what he’s been up to.

    1. Jos is basically an atrocious person.

  14. I made a lengthy post about this. It might give more insight into the cultural background.

    https://www.racefans.net/2020/10/23/verstappen-and-stroll-cleared-over-practice-crash/#comment-4533259

    1. Thank you for posting again. I missed it the first time, forgot to check back. An interesting insight.

  15. The heat of the moment is one thing but when he was asked about his comments after the session didn’t he say “If anyone is ofended that’s their problem”, maybe that’s why people are still making something of it. He should have apologised straight away but missed his chance.

  16. Verstappen talks like a teen in a Discord server and always has. One day he’ll look back on this and regret it, if he develops emotionally.

    1. He’ll definitely regret everything in his whole life like I did…

    2. @passo The teens I know in Discord servers speak more wisely than this…

  17. Under stress people reveal their true selves, and Verstappen’s is not nice to see.
    This is not a simple misstatement that he can wipe away with Red Bull media trained platitudes. Maybe Red Bull should push him out of his gilded cage to visit those that he so carelessly insults and get him to spend some time in their shoes.

  18. That’s super Mark. Great to hear such good work being done.
    Obviously I don’t know Max, and what he is like as a person.
    I do object strongly to his use of language here, and in the past (he used the same term around 2018 regards a race steward).
    Basbaas in another post here gives a perspective from a Dutch standpoint on the use of language which is food for thought.

  19. Most of these drivers are entitled, overindulged children.

    Verstappen was at fault in the incident yet was still appallingly abusive.

    Vettel’s got some serious impulse control problems that has manifested in throwing tantrums, abusing Charlie Whiting, desperate and dangerous lunges on track.

    Hamilton had it in his head at one time that his team that has paid him hundreds of millions try to sabotage him, constantly inside and outside of the car trying to downplay the dominance of his car and over emphasising every little challenge he faces to elevate his performance. That’s some serious insecurity.

    Alonso has been destructive everywhere he’s gone.

    1. Verstappen should regret everything.
      Vettel’s angry team radios are worth mocking.
      About Hamilton…let’s not talk about sabotage.
      Alonso always rants like he’s writing diss tracks against everyone.

    2. David Bondo

      I am beginning to suspect you are seriously unwell.

      This board could well do without your constant derogatory assessments that always include some fictionalised stats or commentary about Hamilton.

      Frankly Max’s outburst appalling as it was, given it was hardly his first use of such, has nothing on your public profile and persistent negative commentary.

      1. DrG…

        Quote – David Bondo ” trying to downplay the dominance of his car and over emphasising every little challenge he faces to elevate his performance”

        That is not fictionalised. That’s absolute fact. Everything is the “hardest, toughest, best ever.”

        Tyres, dead. Next lap, fastest.

  20. Betrayal always exists. After Baku 2018, I never regretted that.

    1. That’s was Ricciardo’s fault. Overcommitted to a pass that was never going to happen.

      1. My opinion after 2 years still can’t change. Probably never will…

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