Ocon & Verstappen share 'respect' despite past tensions and rivalry

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Esteban Ocon says he and Max Verstappen do share a "respect" for each other despite past encounters on and off the track.

The two drivers have gone head-to-head pretty much throughout their racing career and in Formula 1, the first glimpse came after they collided when the Frenchman tried to unlap himself during the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.

That moment cost Verstappen victory and he confronted Ocon post-race, pushing him in the weighing area in Parc Ferme, but Esteban downplayed any lasting feelings from that day.

“We are professional drivers, so the important thing is not to create any issues and what happened last time on the track, happened on the track and we have to think separate," he told ESPN.

“But, of course, there was some tension back in the days when we were racing really closely, but we always had respect between each other and that’s important.”

Ocon went on to tell the backstory to his and Verstappen's past altercations.

“[It started in] karting," he said. “We were racing really closely in karting as soon as we met, but also with Charles [Leclerc] it was probably even more fiery with him.

“When I left karting they were still racing together and it was fireworks a few times in karting and then in Formula 3 we were racing for the title.

“It was a big rivalry like it has always been in any sport between two guys, but as I said, the most important is to think on-track and think off-track. Off-track has to be respectful and that’s how it is.”

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Since beating Verstappen to the 2014 European F3 title, however, it has been Max who made the bigger rise, joining Toro Rosso in 2015 and then Red Bull in 2016, going on to score seven Grand Prix wins.

As for Ocon, he didn't make it to F1 until midway through 2016 at Manor, he then spent two years at Force India only to be dropped at the end of 2018 but is back for 2020 at Renault.

His teammate will be Daniel Ricciardo, another driver who has felt Verstappen's presence, creating an interesting dynamic of the returning youngster against the established veteran.

“I don’t really know him personally, but from what I heard he is a really cool guy, so it will be great to team up with him,” Esteban said of the Australian.

“Also I will have things to learn from him, so it’s going to be cool.”