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F1: Max Verstappen unrepentant over Esteban Ocon altercation

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Not only is Max Verstappen unrepentant over his altercation with Esteban Ocon at the Brazilian Grand Prix, he suggests the French driver got away lightly with a few shoves to the chest.

Although he had already been lapped and had little to fight for, Ocon refused to let race leader Verstappen past him two weeks ago. The pair tangled, sending the Dutch driver spinning back to second place and pushing Lewis Hamilton up to first at Interlagos.

It cost Verstappen his third victory of the season, and sixth of his Red Bull career. He stopped a post-race interview when he saw Ocon, squaring up to his rival and shoving him three times before angrily pointing a finger at him as he walked away.

Asked at the Abu Dhabi GP on Thursday if he had regrets, Verstappen replied: “No, not really. I was after an apology and I got a different response.”

“I lost a victory, so I think from my side I was really calm. It could have been much worse,” added the 21-year-old Dutchman, who is known as much for his fiery temper as his daredevil driving. “I thought it was quite a calm response. What do you expect me to do? Shake his hand and say, `Thanks very much’.

Although Ocon breached race etiquette as a back-marker by not moving aside for the leader, Verstappen seemed equally upset by the Force India driver’s comments.

“You guys don’t hear what’s being said … You just see me pushing,” he said. “But if you understood the whole conversation, I think it would be different.”

Ocon’s words were “something I didn’t expect to hear,” Verstappen added, before using an expletive.

The Red Bull driver must now perform two days of public service within six months, a punishment he calls harsh.

“We’re not robots,” Verstappen said. “We are all here to win. You are in that position and it gets taken away from you.”

At a news conference on Thursday, the two men sat with Ferrari pair Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen between them.

Ocon was stone-faced throughout but had his say.

“It’s not a great thing to be involved in a crash with the leader,” he said. “I’m sorry for Max. It was his race to win.

“The team came on the radio saying, `You can un-lap yourself if you want, if you are faster.’ I just went for it,” the 22-year-old Frenchman said. “Even if Max said the opposite, he would like to come back on what he did after the race.”

The pair have competed since their karting days. Verstappen was evasive when they were asked how they felt about each other, Ocon more forthcoming.

“I will respond, if he cannot, I will,” Ocon said. “We’ve been racing a long time. The important thing is it stays good racing and good fun for the fans, but doesn’t go over the top.”

Four-time world champion Vettel has had altercations in the past with Verstappen and former teammate Mark Webber.

“We are here to fight for something that means the world to us. For people watching, it’s a show. For people reporting about the show, it’s a job. For us it’s a job, but it’s our lives,” Vettel said. “Emotions are part of sports.”

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Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).