Max Verstappen has explained why he took the decision to stop speaking to Sky Sports broadcasters – the providers of ESPN’s Formula 1 coverage in the United States – at the Mexico City Grand Prix.
The back-to-back world champion would not do interviews with any of Sky’s outlets in the UK, Italy or Germany in Mexico, with team principal Christian Horner taking the same approach. Verstappen says it was a build-up of comments made by the broadcaster that had led him to make the call, as he was also frustrated with how he feels it adds fuel to the fire of social media arguments.
“It had nothing to do with this weekend, but this year it’s been a constant kind of like digging, being disrespectful, especially one particular person,” Verstappen said. “And at one point it is enough, I don’t accept it. You can’t live in the past, you just have to move on.
“At the moment social media is a very toxic place and if you are constantly being like that live on TV, you make it constantly worse, instead of trying to make it better in the world. You keep disrespecting me and at one point I’m not tolerating it anymore. So that’s why I decided to stop answering.”
The “one particular person” that Verstappen references is understood to be Sky reporter Ted Kravitz, but the Dutchman also says more needs to be done by social media platforms to promote healthier debates.
“I think it’s just the sport is more popular, so there are more people watching, so more people are writing. I think it’s just that. It’s not great that they are allowed to write these kinds of things. I hope we can kind of come up with an algorithm that stops people being keyboard warriors, because these kinds of people would never come up to you and say these kind of things in front of your face.
“It’s because they are sitting in front of their desk or whatever at home, being upset, being frustrated and they can write whatever they like because the platform allows them to. That can be really damaging and hurtful to some people and it’s not how it should be.”
Verstappen’s comments were backed up by his 2021 title rival Lewis Hamilton, who says online posts can have a major impact and need to be better regulated.
“I think social media is getting more and more toxic as the years go on,” Hamilton said. “I think we should probably get off it ultimately. Mental health is such a prominent thing right now. I know so many people are reading the comments and the stuff people say and it is hurtful. Fortunately I don’t read that stuff.
“The media platforms definitely need to do more, to protect people, particularly young kids and women. But at the moment, they are not doing that, so I think this will just continue.”