“You make your own luck and create your own situations but the key is you should not put yourself in a position where the actions of another driver can affect your race. You have to look after yourself and your car and avoid unnecessary risk if possible.”
That was Sir Jackie Stewart talking about a misjudgement by Lewis Hamilton when he threw away 12 points in the 2012 European Grand Prix after refusing to back off and tangling with the excitable Pastor Maldonado while fighting for position with the Williams.
Fast forward to the cool down room after Sunday’s race in Brazil. Hamilton, talking to Max Verstappen about the incident that cost Red Bull victory, says simply: “You had more to lose than he [Esteban Ocon] did.” Doubtless Sir Jackie would agree with the words of a five-time F1 World Champion, now with 228 Grands Prix to his name as opposed to the 98 he had at Valencia in 2012.
Brazil was Verstappen’s 80th. Who knows what lessons he’ll take away from an incident that has cleanly divided opinion but, at the end of the day, denied Max what should have been another outstanding and unexpected win.
Ocon had every right to unlap himself even though he chose a risky place to do it – and with a rival he’s familiar with given their eventful history when competing in karts and F3. Verstappen should have had a reciprocal thought as he saw the pink car come alongside. Regardless of whether, in Verstappen’s view, the move was unacceptable from a driver one lap behind, Ocon was right there and unlikely to suddenly vanish into the Brazilian ether as Max turned in.
It’s not fence-sitting to say this was a 50/50 incident between two guys unaccustomed – as yet – to backing off at a moment when circumspection is sometimes needed in the make up of any potential world champion.
But whatever might be said, nothing warrants the devious nonsense from Helmut Marko, aged 75, when Red Bull’s so-called guru implied Ocon’s action had been informed by a wish to please his mentors at Mercedes. The Frenchman’s future was indeed likely to have been in his thoughts, but only because an urgent need to score a decent result had been badly compromised by a delayed pit stop three laps before.
Because of the focus at the front as the first four were covered by five seconds, the cameras missed some potentially interesting moments as Pierre Gasly refused to yield to Brendon Hartley despite the Toro Rosso management spelling out, more than once, the need for the Frenchman to let the Kiwi through. Hartley was not only on the faster strategy at that point but also, worse than Ocon, in need of a career enhancing point or two. By the time Gasly reluctantly did the deed with two laps remaining, it was too late for Hartley to get beyond a frustrated 11th.
If Gasly adopts the same bolshie attitude next year, the only good thing for Red Bull will be having Verstappen vent his feelings in the privacy of the motor home rather than throwing his toys around the FIA weighbridge. Good luck with that one, Dr Marko.