Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and Sky Sports F1 broadcaster Damon Hill, the 1996 F1 World Champion, engaged in a heated argument after Friday's action in Qatar, as Hill questioned Horner's opinion that Verstappen's driving in Brazil was firm but fair.
Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel on Lap 48/71 of the Brazilian Grand Prix, with Verstappen's defence resulting in both drivers going off track. The stewards decided against imposing a penalty, as well as declining the possibility of a right of review when Mercedes requested it.
Hill, interviewing Horner on Sky Sports after Friday practice at the Losail International Circuit, told Horner that he felt Verstappen had gone over the line in Brazil and asked Horner whether he felt a "dive up the inside" was OK for racing standards.
"I don't think it is, do you think [Valtteri] Bottas was over the limit?" Horner hit back at Hill.
"Do you think that, on the first lap, that Carlos Sainz was over the limit? They were all incidents, [where] similar things happened. I think that there's so much scrutiny placed because it's the two World Championship protagonists going for it.
"I think that Max clearly demonstrated in Mexico that you can pass around the outside, he made a clean pass into Turn 1 around the outside. I think what you had in Brazil was Lewis in a vastly superior car, straight-line-speed wise, and Max hanging on.
"The fact he hung on for 58 laps, nobody else could hang on for more than three against Lewis. I think that he was braking right to the limit, so did Lewis.
"If he'd have done what Checo [Perez] did on the first lap, he'd have undercut him and let Max go wide, so I don't quite understand why you're being so hard on Max."
"Max should be encouraged, not criticised"
Hill responded to say: "I'm looking at it from the point of view if you want to go racing, you've got a hard charger in Max and you're uncompromising as a race team.
"But we want to know, as the people that love the sport, how it's going to be conducted, how it's going to play out when it comes to the crunch because, basically, we're gonna have a pretty close fight here at this track."
Horner, who has threatened to protest against Mercedes this weekend, if Red Bull see that the W12 is fitted with a flexible rear wing they suspect has been aiding the car's straight-line speed, said that the ongoing battle between the two drivers should be encouraged, rather than complained about.
"We want a playing field and clean fight across these last three races," he said.
"We've had a phenomenal Championship, the fact that we're still here... They [Mercedes] haven't had this in seven years, that's why Toto's getting twitchy. That's why he's swearing at the camera.
"That's why he's throwing a few F-bombs around, and it's fantastic! We've got them under pressure, it's what the sport's been crying out [for] and, rather than criticising Max, you should be encouraging him!"
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