Szafnauer dismisses Marko's conspiracy theory

Whatever one’s view of yesterday’s incident(s) involving Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon, the situation was hardly helped by the somewhat incendiary comments from Helmut Marko and Christian Horner.

For once turning their ire from Renault, Marko suggested that the on-track incident involving the two drivers was most likely due to Ocon – a Mercedes driver – seeking to please his bosses by taking out Verstappen and thereby handing victory – and the constructors’ title – to the German team.

Meanwhile, following the altercation in the FIA weigh bridge garage, Horner said Ocon was lucky to have ‘only’ been pushed by Verstappen and not received the full ‘Verstappen-slappen’.

While Force India boss, Otmar Szafnauer, insists that Ocon had every right to fight to un-lap himself, he was also keen to dismiss Marko’s suggestion.

“That’s a conspiracy theory and I doubt a racing driver is thinking about his drive for 2020 with what he does today, absolutely not,” Szafnauer told reporters.

“Esteban came on the radio and said can I un-lap myself because I am quicker and we said yes go ahead. At that point he had a tyre advantage and we probably would have had a tyre advantage for five, six, seven, eight laps. Whatever Max was doing to gently bring his tyres in, we didn’t need to do that.

“At six laps with a half-second tyre advantage, that’s three seconds,” he continued. “We were racing other people and can’t get stuck even though it is behind the race leader. So, yes we had to do it… in our race we had to do it.”

Meanwhile, several hours after the incident, Ocon took to social media.

“I’m very sorry for Max, crashing with a lapped car should never happen,” he wrote on Instagram, “it was his race to win.

“But on my side I got told to un-lap myself as I was quicker on a fresh set, and it was not an option to lift in the straight line. It is an unfortunate incident and of course we don’t want to see those things happen.”

On Twitter, he wrote: “I respect the FIA’s decision but just to be clear, if you are faster you are allowed to un-lap yourself. I overtook 7 times into turn 2 this race it was always tight, but always fair…” accompanying the comment with a number of pictures, including one of him getting ‘up close and personal’ with Fernando Alonso as he passed him in the same corner.

It was later reported that the pair had been seen shaking hands – though Marko will no doubt claim it was arm-wrestling.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Interlagos, here.