The Mexican Grand Prix threw more heat into an already spicy rivalry between Red Bull and Ferrari.
Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were both engaged in late-race duels with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel that resulted in penalties, two drivers being bumped from the podium and plenty of cursing.
All of it nearly overshadowed Lewis Hamilton’s critical victory Sunday as he chases Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg for the season championship.
At the age of 19, Verstappen has stormed through his second Formula One season with his first career victory, five more podium finishes and aggressive moves that have drawn complaints from other teams – notably Ferrari – and safety warnings from race officials.
That success helped push Red Bull past Ferrari into second place in the team championship, piling more frustration onto a disappointing season for the Italian team.
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The latest flare-ups started when Vettel and Verstappen were battling for third in Mexico City.
Vettel tried to pass Verstappen heading into a turn after the long straight at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Verstappen swung wide through the grass – similar to what Hamilton did on the opening lap – and held position.
Vettel was furious that Verstappen made an illegal move. The Red Bull team even advised Verstappen to yield position to the Ferrari.
Verstappen ignored the call. Vettel cursed in his car radio and shouted, “He has to let me go! Move! Move for God’s sake!”
After the checkered flag, Vettel drove up beside Verstappen and wagged his finger. Verstappen responded by shaking his fist.
The teenager went all the way to the podium-finisher’s cool-down room before learning that race officials penalized him five seconds for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Bumped to fifth, Verstappen stormed off as Vettel was brought in for the post-race champagne celebration.
But Vettel’s smiles wouldn’t last.
About two hours after the race, Vettel was penalized for a dangerous defensive move against Ricciardo on lap 70 of 71. Formula One officials have warned drivers such moves would be punished, prompted in part by Ferrari’s previous complaints about Verstappen.
“I was frustrated by that,” Ricciardo said. “We know Max’s moves have been a bit questionable. That was the same case today with Seb. Don’t get me wrong, I love racing, I love racing hard and even a bit of contact. But this whole moving under braking, you don’t move after you’ve been out-foxed.”
Verstappen, however, was seething over being penalized. He took some pointed shots at Vettel, a four-time champion who hasn’t won this season.
“He’s a very frustrated guy, shouting on the radio like a child,” Verstappen said.
Vettel said Verstappen should “calm down” on the track.
“I think he’s a great kid. He’s fast, he’s pushing, he’s redefining the limits, not in a negative way, but in terms of playing with the car,” Vettel said. “He’s a skilled kid. I like him in general. I think some of the moves on track he needs to learn. He needs to calm down. I think he’s ultimately hurting himself more than he’s helping himself.”