Formula One driver apologises to Brazillians
MAX Verstappen has apologised to any Brazilians he may have offended after qualifying in Bahrain.
The Red Bull driver was angry with Felipe Massa for ruining his warm-up lap prior to the third and final qualifying run on Saturday, saying the Williams star dived in front of him on the final corner.
Verstappen started sixth on the grid on race day but thought he may have been up higher had it not been for Massa's interference.
"On my last Q3 run I was behind Lewis (Hamilton) and we were preparing our laps and just as I went into the final corner, Felipe just dived in front of me and stopped," Verstappen said.
"There was a big gap behind us so I was like, 'Why did you do that?' So I stayed in first gear all around the corner to make a gap to him and that basically ruined my lap because you have cold tyres, you have a very bad exit out of that last corner and then it's ruined turn one because there is understeer and the tyres are too cold."
Asked if he would confront Massa about the incident, Verstappen said: "Well, he's a Brazilian so there's not much to discuss."
While the comment was made in jest, Massa warned Verstappen to think before he speaks.
"I told him earlier today, 'Be careful with your words because you will have a Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of year and you will have to race there. So be careful what you say,'" Massa told Brazilian radio station UOL Esporte.
"Without a doubt, it was not right to speak about Brazilians without even knowing what he was talking about."
Verstappen then posted on Facebook and Instagram on Tuesday to clarify his remarks, saying he meant no disrespect.
"I feel like I need to clarify my remarks that were made after this weekends (sic) qualifying session," Verstappen wrote. "Being a passionate racer, I was very disappointed with my last stint and gave an emotional reaction that was taken out of context. By no means did I mean to insult the Brazilian people who I greatly respect and are always very nice to me when I visit the country.
"One of the highlights of my career was last years (sic) Brazilian GP and it was extra special to do this in the country that brought us legendary drivers such as Senna, Fittipaldi and Piquet. I would like to apologize to any Brazilians that feel offended and look forward to racing in your country again."
One of Verstappen's finest moments in his young F1 career was undoubtedly his third place at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2016, when his audacious overtaking in terrible conditions led Red Bull boss Christian Horner to label his performance "one of the best drives ever in F1".
So it's not surprising the 19-year-old doesn't want any bad blood with a country that holds special significance for him.
Massa says Verstappen not only erred in his comment about Brazilians but also in criticising him for impacting his qualifying run in the first place.
"He didn't know what he was talking about, because I didn't do anything that bothered him," Massa said. "Maybe he wanted to find a reason for being beaten by his teammate - and he needed someone to blame.
"I told him, 'The same thing happened between Nico (Hulkenberg) and myself, and did you see anyone complaining?' Before you start a lap, you have to be in the best possible position. If you are not able to do that, it's your own fault."
Verstappen failed to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix after suffering rear brake failure on the 12th lap. Teammate Daniel Ricciardo came fifth as the Red Bull pair struggled to compete with the might of Ferrari and Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel took top spot on the podium for the Italian team, Lewis Hamilton was second and his Silver Arrows colleague Valtteri Bottas was third.