By Alan Baldwin
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has threatened a radio blackout after causing a stir with his comments during last weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix.
The 19-year-old Dutch driver, a firm fan favorite for his no-nonsense attitude and overtaking skills, told his Formula One team in no uncertain terms that he was not there to finish fourth when asked to take care of the tyres.
The comment drew criticism from Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko, who said Verstappen needed to find the right balance between patience and aggression.
“I think I’m going to take my radio button off,” Verstappen, his face painted like a skull for the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’, told reporters at the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit when asked about the incident on Thursday.
“No radio for me any more.
“As a driver I always want to go forward, I always actually want to win,” he added. “I was just trying to get past.”
Verstappen said every time he pressed the radio button, his comments ended up being broadcast to the world on the live television feed and they could sound arrogant.
“But that’s just what comes up in my mind. I’m not there to finish fourth, I’m there to win as a racer,” he said.
“But on the radio it sounds like I’m arrogant, I’m not listening to the team. But that’s not my message to the team. Some fans do love it, some don’t. I think it’s better to just don’t say anything so you have no discussions.”
The teenager said that he could offer simple ‘OK, yes, that’s fine’ responses for the time being: “No long sentences for me any more.”
Verstappen, who failed to finish in Austin due to a gearbox failure, also pitted there without the team calling him in, causing confusion in the pitlane. He apologized for the mistake.
“I think after almost driving an hour in the car already, you get into a comfort zone, you are in a bit auto-pilot. I saw (team mate) Daniel (Ricciardo) boxing (pitting) the lap before so I thought I will box the next lap for my last stint.
“I think that’s where it went wrong. I was maybe thinking a bit too much for myself.”
Verstappen, a race winner in Spain in May on his debut with the team after moving up from Toro Rosso, said he would make sure the error did not happen again.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)