Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve claims the lack of action over Max Verstappen's aggressive driving suggests the Dutchman is getting "protection" from the FIA
Verstappen has found himself in the firing line for his latest defensive moves at the Belgian Grand Prix, with several rivals claiming that if he doesn't calm down, he'll cause a big accident.
But Villeneuve believes that motor racing's governing body are the key players in the situation, as he suspects they are reluctant to punish him, because they do not want to take away his box office attraction.
“The issue is the FIA, because it looks like he's got protection,” Villeneuve told Motorsport.com. “They want him to be a star.
"Look in Germany. He weaved on the straight, so Nico [Rosberg] missed his braking [point]. They go a bit wide – Nico gets a penalty. For something even less than… and it wasn't even his fault.
“So there is something that is wrong. I don't know. It's something that makes me angry, but that's just the way it is. Twenty years ago someone would have put him in a tree.”
Villeneuve has not been won over by Verstappen's rapid rise up the ranks in F1 – and claimed that what he did in Belgium was simply "unacceptable."
“It's way too much," he added. "The start is racing. It's too much, but it's racing. Because every expert driver, that's like GP2, you know that if you go to inside there will be an incident, because there is not enough room. You know it.
“Mostly if you had a bad start, just accept it. But that is not what's bad. It's after that, he complains about other drivers: 'They destroyed my race'.
"Relax, relax. You know you took a big risk and it did not pay off. You destroyed their race and you destroyed your own race. That's fine. That's life.
“But what he did afterwards that's not acceptable. What he did to Kimi twice on the straight, and to Vettel as well. Just calm down. You're going to kill someone.”
Villeneuve added that there was nothing wrong in F1 with hard racing, but there was a point where things get dangerous.
When pointed out to Villeneuve that Verstappen doesn't care about making friends in F1, Villeneuve said: “No, and he doesn't care. Which is fine. That's right.
“But you need to have just a little bit of respect. Because you all live in this little thing together.
“Drivers should have respect among each other. Good, hard, fair racing, like Kimi said. You know, racing hard is great. But have some respect.
"You can't just push people off. Or make them have to brake on the straight. That's super, super, super dangerous. Twenty years ago drivers fixed it among themselves.”
When asked if he believed Verstappen would calm down, he said: “Of course not. Why? Every race he is worse.”
Villeneuve has said that he does not expect other drivers to take matters in their own hands on track – as he insists the ball is in the FIA's court.
When asked if his rivals may choose to teach Verstappen a lesson, Villeneuve said: “No. Because now you lose your license. Not now. In this political atmosphere. It won't happen.
“But look at the Olympics, some judge lost their licenses to be judges. Something like that should happen here as well, because obviously [Spa] was beyond acceptable.”
Interview by Oleg Karpov