Esteban Ocon has defended his attempted overtake to unlap himself against race leader Max Verstappen which saw the pair clash and become the centre of controversy after the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The French driver looked to unlap himself by passing leader Verstappen at the start of Lap 44 but collided with the Red Bull driver into Turn 2 which sent the pair into a spin. The result saw Lewis Hamilton overtake Verstappen to set-up his victory charge at Interlagos with a furious Verstappen in second.

Singapore V4, F1,

Ocon, who was slapped with a 10-second stop/go penalty by the FIA Stewards for causing the collision, was confronted by Verstappen immediately after the race which triggered a scrap caught on live television. The FIA has handed the Dutch driver a two-day ‘public service’ for his actions against Ocon while the pair made a public show of respect by shaking hands in the paddock after the FIA hearing.

A few hours after the race, the Force India driver took to social media to explain his attempted overtake explaining he had overtaken “seven times” at the same spot during the race and felt he had been “tight but always fair”.

Ocon came under fire from Red Bull bosses Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko who accused him of deliberate actions given his ties to Mercedes, with Ocon a factory driver tipped to join the works team in 2020, which led to Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer to shoot down the accusations as “conspiracy theories”.

“That’s a conspiracy theory and I doubt a racing driver is thinking about his drive for 2020 with what he does today. Absolutely not,” Szafnauer said.

“Esteban came on the radio and said can I unlap myself because I am quicker and we said yes go ahead. That’s it.”