It’s not been a smooth weekend here at the US Grand Prix. Not because Mercedes didn’t win or Lewis didn’t win or Sebastian didn’t, it’s because Max was demoted off the podium with a 5s penalty due to running all four wheels over the track limit white lines and gaining an advantage to pass Kimi Raikkonen.
The incident has been met with the typical social media mobocracy nonsense and conspiracy theories but perhaps it is the resounding commentary from other driv3res and teams that has me more aware of the disdain for the decision. I know Red Bull Racing won’t like it and that Max and his dad, Jos, won’t like it but when Mercedes boss, Niki Lauda, chimes in, you know something is awry.
“This decision is the worst I’ve ever seen, he did nothing wrong,” said Lauda.
“We’re racing drivers, we’re not on a normal road, it’s ridiculous to destroy the sport with this kind of decision.
“Next strategy meeting we need to bring it up to the agenda and start it all over again, because we cannot do that, it’s going too far.
“There was nothing to interfere with, it was a normal overtaking.”
The triple world champion insisted that drivers should be allowed to use all the available road surface.
“Charlie [Whiting, F1 race director] argues all the time there’s white lines and you cannot drive over them,” he said.
“Why cannot you drive over white lines if it is possible? Build a wall there if you want.
“As long as there is normal circuit, you can use it. A white line is not a limit.
“We agreed this all, last year it was all agreed. And now we get this decision. I think it’s completely wrong.”
Lauda recalled that it was agreed in a meeting last year to allow drivers to race without unnecessary interference from officials.
“We got the stewards in to tell us how fast stewards could go during a race,” he said.
“Because it always says ‘under investigation.’ So we complained about that.
“We agreed all together that unless it is dangerous, the stewards would not interfere. Very simple.
“If they drive over [each other] and go upside down, only then they will come in.”
The fact is, it was an odd penalty to call as the FIA said they were going to loosen up on all the micromanaging and white-line offense calls from last year that plagued the series—not because it was wrong but it was inconsistent and the FIA doesn’t have the process in place to render consistency when trying to micromanage a racing driver’s lines.
Max Verstappen isn’t happy with the call and says that it is one race steward in particular that he’s calling out:
“We had a really great race, but with those stupid decisions you really kill the sport,” Verstappen said.
“It’s one idiot steward up there which always makes decisions against me.
“At the end of the day everybody is running wide everywhere, there are no track limits.
“At Turn 9 you can run wide, at Turn 19 you can go off the track and nobody will say anything.
“It’s the same with [Valtteri] Bottas – I went for a move, and he continued outside the track; he came back, I really had to pass him, and nothing has been done against that while he definitely gained advantage.
“It’s not good for the sport – they have to be really clear on the rules that it’s not allowed.”
Now, whether you like it or not, I find this line of conversation very close to Sebastian Vettel’s last year with his infamous “F Charlie” comment and he was penalized for it. Publicly denigrating a FIA race steward should surely be an issue Jean Todt will want to take a look at just like he did Vettel, right? We’ll see.
The issue at hand, and one I would surmise the race stewards would make, is the element of unfair advantage during the passing attempt. The DVR kings out there were plowing through 56 laps of a race in fast-forward trying to find other instances of a pass there by running wide and I’ve seen pictures of Sainz and others posted on Twitter.
This is bulshitt. Sorry. This sucks
— Jos Verstappen (@MaVic009) October 22, 2017
Can there be an argument for Max gaining an advantage by running over the lines to make the pass? That will be what the stewards will argue. A “lasting advantage”. Will Jean Todt make Max fly to the FIA and answer for his tirade calling a race steward an idiot? If not, where is the consistency there? Seb had to do community service for his actions. Where’s the consistency in stewarding if other cars passed there and in the same manner earlier in the race?
The stewards may suggest that they are limited in resources and can’t possibly see every maneuver but this one they did see so Max gets a penalty. Time will tell but how did you see the incident?
Seems like Gary Connely is int he hot seat at the FIA as Max has pointed him out.
Hat Tip: Autosport, Autosport and Autosport