Max Verstappen has clarified the comments he made after the Bahrain Grand Prix about sacking any driver who was unsure about racing after witnessing a big crash.
When speaking during the post-race press conference having finished second at Sakhir, the Dutchman said that if he was a team boss he would “kick him out of the seat” if a driver was having second thoughts about getting back into the car.
The remarks were prompted by a question to Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton asking whether drivers should be given the option of continuing a race that had been stopped because of a major accident, such as the one that occurred with Romain Grosjean.
Verstappen added at the time: “I don’t get why you wouldn’t race. If the guy wouldn’t race, if I would be the team boss I would tell him ‘then you never sit in the seat again’.”
But now, the 23-year-old has insisted his words were “misunderstood” and that he was merely suggesting a driver should question their own commitment to the sport if they were deliberating whether they should resume a race in those circumstances.
“I think people misunderstood what I meant,” said Verstappen, quoted by RaceFans. “What I was trying to say was that as drivers, we know the risks when we get in the car and if anyone has doubts they should consider stopping racing.”
The Red Bull driver said the situation would have been different had Grosjean’s injuries been more serious.
The 34-year-old Frenchman made a miraculous escape with just burns to his hands and ankles and a sprained foot after his Haas speared through a safety barrier, split in two and burst into flames. He was discharged from hospital three days after the incident.
Verstappen added: “There is nothing wrong with that if you feel uncomfortable to race, but we are part of a team and they rely on us to do our job which is to drive the car.
“Had Romain not walked away, obviously things would have been very different on Sunday.
“I think back in the sixties and seventies it was way more dangerous and the drivers of that era were still going out on track because they knew it was their job and that’s what they loved to do, even though they knew the risk was very high of losing their friends around them.
“The safety in place now is incredible and I respect everyone’s own decisions, but that’s how I feel.
“Nobody ever wants to see an accident like that, but all that really matters is that Romain is okay.”