Grand Prix crash culprit Max Verstappen is on a collision course with Formula One’s rule makers unless he mends his errant ways and puts the brake on the wild antics that are enraging his rival drivers and team bosses.
The punishment could result in an enforced layoff from the championship chase, a heavy official ban, if the 20-year-old fails to mend his gung-ho style that has triggered warnings and curses galore from both in-track victims and onlookers.
And here his Red Bull team boss Chris Horner has a duty not to shirk the responsibility or shrink back from emphasising his view that Verstappen’s wayward guiltiness in carelessly crashing into or baulking should stop. Immediately ….
In three of the opening races he has been the centrepiece of untidy and deliberate actions of impatience at speeds of more than 200mph — and has shown little or no shame of embarrassment at his behaviour.
I sincerely hope — and here I would bet I am completely backed by the rest of the Grand Prix grid — that Horner, ahead of this Sunday’s fourth round in Azerbaijan, takes the frenzied Verstappen aside and cautions him with the ice cold reminder that he should think before he acts in the melee of frantic action.
Horner stresses: “He is a phenomenal talent and he is smart enough to recognise areas that he needs to work on. I have no doubt he will do just that.” Oh yeah! When?
Even Verstappen’s father, ex F1 driver Jos, who called an emergency meeting with his wayward son in a bid to stave off his son’s continuing costly style, said:” Max just has to think. I am disappointed. But mad is not the right word to describe him.”
And he added:” He is being put under the magnifying glass because of his age. Truth is, he has to take more risks with his Red Bull because it is slower than the Ferrari and the Mercedes.”
Horner, somewhat rather pathetically sadly, struggled to justify his errant driver’s wild ways with the reminder that four times champion Sebastian Vettel was no angel early on.” Max’s talent is extremely obvious. And his bravery and racing instincts are in no doubt. And, yes, he has made mistakes … just like Seb did at a similar stage in his career.”
A welter of complaints, up front and behind the Grand Prix scenes, have been heaped on the Red Bull driver’s fast fading reputation with the likes of his on-track targets, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel, each looking for a fifth world crown, fronting the moans.
In the opening GPs Verstappen’s brash bursts have plunged him into dire situations that have dictated disastrous outcomes for the cars he has clouted in wheel-to-wheel confrontations.
Vettel, his latest victim, in the China race, fumed:” He has to change.” And Hamilton, after a clash in the opener in Bahrain, branded him:” A thickhead.”
The chorus of disapproval was strengthened by Mercedes team authority Niki Lauda, another ex champion and respected voice, who said:” When you race you usually get cleverer. But Verstappen is going the other way. And he needs to sort himself out. Nobody can help him.”
Verstappen, into his fourth F1 season, has had 63 GP starts since his debut as a 17-year-old in 2015, has scored three victories, been runner-up five times and third three times — but has been the central figure of too many crashes, too.
Despite the volumes of criticism the GP bad boy steadfastly refuses to alter his style or back down from his confrontational daring and stresses:” Right now the championship is not going my way. But that does not mean I have to calm down as everybody keeps saying I should. No….
“And I will come back even stronger in the next race. I am not going to change. I am always going to give it my all.”
Oh dear. Come on Mr Horner. Do him and all of us a favour. Do your duty.