HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Max Verstappen’s rivals may not have been too impressed by his robust defense against Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix but he is sure it would have got the approval of some of the sport’s legends.
“We are fighting, you know, it’s not like we are on a Sunday drive,” the Red Bull driver said on Thursday ahead of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
“That’s how I approach a race because we are there to fight and we are there to score points and I think (the late Ayrton) Senna and (Alain) Prost would like it as well.”
Dutchman Verstappen and Finn Raikkonen made contact late in Sunday’s race, damaging the Ferrari’s front wing, while waging a hard-fought battle for fifth.
Raikkonen, who was pursuing Verstappen, felt the 18-year-old’s driving was against the rules that forbid a driver from making more than one move to defend his position.
Multiple champions Senna and Prost engaged in many of the fiercest tussles the sport has seen, characterized by contact and hard wheel-to-wheel racing.
When asked for their views about the battle, which saw Verstappen finish fifth, one place ahead of Raikonnen, other drivers on Thursday agreed that the Dutchman, whose racecraft has been impressive, had been a touch too aggressive.
“As drivers we all know that moving in the braking zone is the most dangerous thing you can do, because the (other) guy is at 300km/h and he probably hasn’t hit the brakes yet,” said McLaren’s 2009 world champion Jenson Button.
“Moving is a no-no, and he (Verstappen) obviously did move in the braking zones. I can understand Kimi’s frustrations.”
Button’s team mate, double world champion Fernando Alonso, felt Verstappen’s driving was “illegal” while Williams’ Felipe Massa felt the Dutchman’s defense was a “little bit on the limit”.
But Verstappen, given the all-clear by stewards who did not think his moves merited an investigation, maintained he had done nothing wrong.
“Everybody can have criticism...” he said. “It’s nice, there are some stories again to read. It’s okay, fills up my day as well, so it’s good.”
Raikkonen is fourth in the overall driver standings, 14 points ahead of Verstappen in sixth place.
Editing by Ken Ferris