Verstappen finished second to title rival Lewis Hamilton in Jeddah after a race full of controversy and contention, which included the pair making contact when Verstappen suddenly slowed to let the Briton past under stewards’ orders.
The result meant Hamilton drew level on points with the young Dutchman, who is chasing his first ever world title as Hamilton seeks a record eighth. Their championship fight will be decided in the final race of the season, at Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Afterwards Verstappen departed the podium without joining in the celebrations, as is traditional for the top three at the end of a grand prix whether or not they are happy with their position, and he left Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas behind.
Asked why he walked off, Verstappen blamed the lack of champagne – Saudi Arabian customs dictate rose water is used for the traditional drinks spraying instead. “Because there was no champagne,” Verstappen explained. “It wasn’t fun.”
But BBC Sport commentator Sulaiman Folarin was unimpressed with the Red Bull driver, saying: “Max Verstappen just confirmed he is a bad sportsman. He walked off the stage without celebrating as customary. Where are his apologists?”
Verstappen also came under scrutiny for his actions behind the wheel. In his Sky Sports column, fellow commentator Martin Brundle compared Verstappen’s uncompromising driving to former world champions and racing legends in Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, but warned that the Dutchman is putting his reputation at risk.
“I’m in awe of Verstappen’s driving skills and racing nous,” Brundle said. “His touch and control behind the wheel is something to behold, but it saddens me that he’s resorting to such tactics, he’s better than that. And for all his outwardly carefree attitude it will be such a shame if his legacy is to be labelled as an unfair driver.
“Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher had their faults too, and I was on the receiving end from both of them on occasions, but it’s a sizeable dent on their immense reputations, not a positive.”
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