SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has insinuated Esteban Ocon's collision with Max Verstappen at the Brazilian Grand Prix was linked to his status as a Mercedes junior driver.
Verstappen was cruising to victory when Ocon attempted to unlap himself at the start of lap 44. The pair tangled at the first corner and spun off the circuit, allowing Lewis Hamilton to inherit the lead from Verstappen, who got going again with a damaged car.
Verstappen went on to finish second but was furious with Ocon post-race. The Frenchman had received a ten-second stop-go penalty in the race, the most severe penalty below disqualification. Marko, the man who oversees Red Bull's driver programme and orchestrated Verstappen's rise to the senior team from Toro Rosso in 2016, believes Ocon should be made to miss the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the incident.
"A Mercedes driver, who is promised a seat for 2020, that crashes into the leading car -- unbelievable," Marko told Germany's Motorsport-Magazin. "They should have told him 'this is the leader, he has new tyres, don't attack him.'
"And then this idiot gets a ten-second penalty. I would have expected a race ban."
When the quote was read to Wolff in his own post-race media session, he said: "This is how Dr Marko sees the world and I want to leave it with that.
"I don't want to go on this level. We have a fifth world championship to celebrate today."
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was less suspicious of the incident and instead simply questioned what Ocon's logic had been. He also referenced Verstappen and Ocon's junior careers -- they were rivals in karting, and Ocon beat Verstappen to the 2014 European Formula 3 championship.
"I think that's a coincidence, I don't believe there was any instruction," Horner said. "There is obviously history between the two drivers. I think it was just a very bad judgement call by Ocon -- he's a lap down, he's not even in the points, and he's racing the race leader!"
Verstappen was furious with Ocon after the race and confronted the Frenchman at the weighing area, shoving his former rival several times. The drivers were later summoned to the stewards for that incident.
The stewards later ruled that Verstappen must complete "two days of public service" within the next six months to atone for the follow-up incident.