Max Verstappen has again received criticism for his racing tactics, particularly the aggressive way the young Dutchman is defending his position. The 18-year old however rejects any of the blame, saying the others will have to accept it as it is.
Verstappen had thought he could realise a dream result at the Belgian Grand Prix, in front of approximately 30.000 Dutch fans who came to Belgium to cheer him forward. The dream however didn't last long, as a first corner clash with Raikkonen and Vettel caused him to lose his front wing.
"I was on the inside of turn 1 and blocked nothing. That doesn't mean I missed the corner", Verstappen said to Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport.
"Both Ferraris steered in and hence I lost my front wing. Additionally, the floor of my car was damaged, resulting in a loss of downforce. The slow corners were just problematic, resulting in more degradation, something that you certainly do not want on this circuit".
Indeed, after a sluggish getaway from second place, he got passed by both Ferraris, and subsequently opted to take the inside line at La Source. Sebastian Vettel however turned in from the left hand side of the track, sticking Raikkonen in a closing gap between himself and Verstappen. The action resulted in unavoidable contact that required all three men to visit the pits for repairs.
While the thing was considered a racing incident by the stewards, Verstappen appeared to think otherwise, as he later defended aggressively against Raikkonen, when the Finn tried to pass Verstappen twice on the approach to Les Combes (turn 5). On the first attempt, Raikkonen was ahead, but forced to shortcut the corner as Verstappen cut to the apex, leaving no room for the Finn to proceed.
Raikkonen did let Verstappen past, but only after asking "Do I really have to let the Red Bull past? It's clear he's only trying to run me off the track.
One lap later, Raikkonen tried to take the inside line under braking, but saw Verstappen close the gap.
"I think something is not right here", Raikkonen said after the race.
"I chose the right side, and then when he realised, he moved right as well. I had to brake at high speed to avoid an accident. I've never experienced this with any other driver, so I think this is not right. But apparently it doesn't matter".
Sebastian Vettel agreed with his teammate's views.
"I don't think what Max was trying to do would have worked," Vettel said. "Obviously he didn't allow Kimi to move into the inside, and that prevented both of them from clearing Turn One in a normal way. We all three touched and collided, and this was bad news for Kimi and for me. Of course, with hindsight, I would have given more room to the inside, but you want to make the corner and try to race, and I gave room to Kimi, but not to three cars.
"Max had a bad start, he was falling behind. I think we have seen in the last couple of years that if you really dive down the very inside,the track is falling off and you basically go straight. The cars ahead have priority, and this is something he needs to understand. In that regard there was no way he could have made the corner without making contact."
When Vettel saw the incident for which Raikkonen was complaining, the German outlined a similar view to Kimi as well.
"We talked about moving under braking. Top speed... reaching 340 km/h... and he's moving," Vettel told NBC Sports after the race.
"It works so long as the car behind plays accordingly and lifts. But if both stick to line, both crash. That's not what you want to do. If you drive like that it won't end up too well. More than anything it cost us - and him - a lot of time."
Verstappen however rejected any blame.
"The Ferrari's ruined my race in the first corner. Then I will not just let them past. I'd prefer to run them off the track instead. Let them rage over the team radio, it's fun the people at home in front of the television".
The thing is though that Raikkonen is an experienced F1 driver, a World Champion, and has others agreeing with him as well. Niki Lauda for instance, hardly an involved party in the matter, said "I'm angry at Max. He's unfair and outrageous to say he does anything wrong. I'm gonna talk to his dad."
5 weeks ago, Verstappen was also under fire for his defensive driving, and it remains to be seen if the stewards will continue to accept this driving, if more of the experienced drivers openly take sides.