MONZA, Italy (Reuters) - Max Verstappen compared himself to Manchester United’s mercurial Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Thursday when Formula One rivals questioned the teenager’s aggressive driving at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Making clear that he felt no need to apologize, the uncompromising 18-year-old Red Bull racer told reporters he was not about to change his style just because some others did not like it.
“Let’s say you put Ibrahimovic... up as a defender. Would he like it just because other people think he is a better defender (than attacker)? I don’t think he will listen to those guys,” the Dutchman said at the Italian Grand Prix.
“If he likes to attack he wants to attack. It is not because other drivers tell me I have to change my driving style that I will change my driving style.”
Verstappen has emerged as a Formula One sensation, a rare talent who in May became the youngest race winner in the sport’s history and established himself as both a fan favorite and source of controversy.
He made history in Belgium, effectively his home race, as the youngest driver to start a grand prix on the front row.
He tangled with both Ferrari drivers at the start at Spa and then further angered the Italian team’s 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen with aggressive defending that forced the Finn to brake on the Kemmel straight.
The teen appeared to suggest afterwards that his actions against Raikkonen were a response to what happened at the start.
Raikkonen told reporters on Thursday at Monza, Ferrari’s home race, that such comments were a concern.
“I don’t think it’s the correct sport to start doing purposely paying back something that has happened. It can end up in a very bad way,” he said.
“It’s not the place to start acting silly in a way and paying back for something that has happened.”
Other drivers called for greater consistency from race stewards, who took no action at Spa, and suggested the Friday drivers’ briefing at Monza was likely to be a lively one.
“Max is on the limit, it’s obvious with Kimi having to hit the brakes full on in the flat-out straight, otherwise there would have been a shunt,” commented Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, the race winner at Spa.
“I’m sure it will be a big topic in tomorrow’s meeting and I’m sure our friends in the red team (Ferrari) are going to have something to say.”
Editing by Rex Gowar