Abu Dhabi: Now at the receiving end for a major part of two weeks, Team Force India’s Esteban Ocon has sought to calm things down with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Not expecting to be unlapped by the Frenchman, Verstappen made contact with Ocon, spinning their cars while unintentionally helping Lewis Hamilton to take the lead and win the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on November 11. Verstappen was furious, and rightly so. But later the 21-year-old confronted Ocon and pushed him several times, an act that cost the Dutch driver maximum points and a two-day public service at the discretion of the FIA.
“It’s not a great thing to be involved in at the moment and it’s not a thing to see,” Ocon said. “I am sorry for Max [Verstappen] as he deserved to win the race. I came in-between Lewis [Hamilton] and Max and I got the blue flag. I was stuck in-between and the team came on radio to say I could unlap and I went for it as I wanted to get into the top-10 and get some points for the team.
“No one can come back from what has happened and I think it is time to move forward as we can’t change the past. I think this is all done and it is time to really move forward.”
Force India signed Ocon at the end of 2016 as part of his multi-year contract with Mercedes. The Frenchman scored his first F1 point in his first race with his new team in Melbourne. His streak of 27 consecutive races without a DNF ended at the Brazilian Grand Prix where he had an accident with his fellow countryman Romain Grosjean when the two clashed on the first lap of the race. He finished his first full season with 87 points and eighth in the championship after an eighth-place finish in the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.
Going into this weekend, Ocon is 11th overall in the drivers’ standings with 49 points, just one less than former three-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who is participating in the final race of his career.
Ocon will be without a team for 2019 as Force India has brought in Lance Stroll while retaining Sergio Perez. “We will see what the next season holds. I will be around in the F1 paddock trying to get as much mileage from the sport and hopefully I will be back in 2020,” Ocon said on his future.
“There are no assurances from Mercedes, so let us wait and see what happens,” he added.