Verstappen penalty has opinions flying at US Grand Prix

Photo by: www/

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.

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

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Arjan Snoek

The problem is consistency. If that can not be guaranteed the rule(s) is of no value. And in that case I concur with Lauda. Because the last years a lot of overtaking takes place outside of the white lines this time feels like picking.

Tom Firth

By the rulebook, the call was correct. The problem is whilst the call was right by the rulebook, it probably wasn’t right for the sport. But then if start judging by what is right for the sport, were does it stop?

Rock and hard place really. Guess that’s the solutions, rocks and hard places on the edges of the track ;-)

Tom Firth

As for precedent being set elsewhere in the race, when has stewarding ever been consistent at any point in motorsport, anywhere? Particularly around track limits. Sucks for Max that he’s the one that got caught, but that argument is decades old and nothings changed and its likely not going to change as a result of this incident.


Agree 100%, the call was correct according to the rule book. But the rules also state that no car can go outside the track limits without a justified reason, there were many, many examples of this in this race alone (inside and outside). This is why it’s hard to understand why it is Max who is penalized. It needs to be thought about that if you cannot enforce rules with at least a little consistency, then maybe the rule shouldn’t exist. Other series use cameras in the pit lane to enforce rules, its a brutally honest system but if F1… Read more »

Rich Saylor

Frankly, I don’t consider breaking the rules to make a pass for position a “justified reason”, as would be the case if forced off the track or due to mechanical failure. Some (like Mercedes, apparently) don’t like the rules (?)- change them, if everyone agrees. So far the no passing off-course rule doesn’t seem to have been changed. Must not have universal concurrence.


I’m thinking we are saying the same thing, but as for changing the rule, Yes! If they cannot be at least somewhat consistent in a rules application then it should be discarded. The stewards cannot be blind to what occurred over the course of the USGP and then go, “wait a minute, don’t we have a rule that doesn’t allow that!?” On the last lap.

Rich Saylor

Everyone should read Charlie W’s reply to criticism of only “occasional” enforcement of the rule(s)… a very reasonable explanation. Speaking of criticism, I think that Niki Lauda should zip it up; his remarks about this incident were (IMO) way, way out of line, speaking as he did as not only a former F1 champion but as a spokesperson for the Mercedes team, as well.

Is this the article you’re referring to?
It is a good read, and sets out a well reasoned and reasonable arguments for verstappens penalty, why big kerbs aren’t the answer, and why strict enforcement (my preferred solution) isn’t where F1 want to go.
Of course well reasoned and reasonable have no place on social media, so clearly the FIA are trying to destroy F1 in general and Verstappen in particular.

Rich Saylor

Yes, that’s the article I was referring to, the one by Charlie W.
Again, I find it nearly hard to believe that someone with the stature of Niki Lauda would make such an indefensible, petty remark about the judgment of the stewards…”the worst decision I’ve ever seen”… honestly? How about his own lack of judgment in making such a remark. It reflects so poorly on not only himself but on the team he represents.


I think Niki takes his ‘crazy inappropriate uncle’ role very seriously.

Paul KieferJr

What gets me is there are folks who want a revision of the rules because they keep violating it, just like there are members of the US Congress who want to rewrite the laws because they’d find themselves in violation if they didn’t because they want to have their own way and consequences be damned. I’m sorry, but those are the rules, and nobody has the right to violate them, whine about them or make a mockery of them. They were put there to make the sport about as fair and safe as possible. You can change them if you… Read more »

Rock or Something

Your reasoning is somewhat sound but the problem is Formula One is extremely boring this year and the only few moments it has been worth watching at all have been when Maxie’s car didn’t break and he could cause the other drivers to race a little. If it was a sport which worked without MV, it could afford to punish him. But it doesn’t and it can’t. Asphalt runoff everywhere, cars that get a couple seconds behind and stop trying, next year roll cages. If you’re going to wait all year to see a pass then have it punished, there’s… Read more »


I’m a huge fan of Max but it was the correct call. He could have kept two wheels on and still made the same move, it was sloppy on his part.

Dr. Bob

Max clearly violated the rule and gained an (unfair) advantage. If there had not been all eyes on his last lap attack on Kimi, the violation might not have been brought to the attention of the Stewards and so quickly. Max claimed that Bottas had done the same to him earlier in the race but there was no penalty. Maybe they were just not observed so clearly. Maybe the Red Bull Team did not raise an objection with Charlie. With Kimi in fuel save mode, Max might have been successful with a pass at turn 19 or 20. After all,… Read more »

Chuck Voelter

He clearly lifted after turn 20


Available what road surface? Why they have track, let’s drive over grass and cut corners everywhere. Oh wait, didn’t Max do that last year in Mexico?


So did Hamilton and Rosberg, but they didn’t get penalized. There also it was Max who was singled out. And that was after he went behind the other stewards back to Mercedes to have them lodge a complaint against Max in Japan the race before.

Salvu Borg

Just for correctness sake: the 2016 Japanese GP cars number 33 and 44 plus the “Connely” connection plus the end farce by Mercedes. The Connely connection was back then invented by Autoblid, of which later they had to eat back all they said/invented about Connely. The facts are that back then the Mercedes farce was triggered off by number 44. When the complain about Max was lodged by Lowe number 44 as well as Toto and Lauda had already left the track and were in the air, number 44 on his own and Toto and Lauda together, number 44 got… Read more »

Salvu Borg

“the decision is the worst I’ve ever seen, he did nothing wrong” he did nothing wrong overtaking with all four wheels at least one meter off the white line marking the track limits?.
“it was a normal overtaking, the white line is not a limit” if the white line marking the track limit is not a limit, what is it?. only a rat can talk like that.
“it is “one race steward in particular, it’s one idiot steward” right send dad jos to give him a lesson!.

Qarbon Nubia

This is a situation that whatever the ruling would have brought in an element of unfairness. If they had not punished Max – would this have been fair to Kimi? I doubt Kimi would have complained too much. Now imagine if it had been Hamilton and yes he would have complained a lot if Max had not been penalised. After such a drive it was sad and a tad cruel for Max thinking he had got a podium and then be shown the door so to speak. There were many case of off track infringements being ignored despite gaining clear… Read more »

Jos Van de Belt

I think the call was right. All other actions during the race weren’t crucial for the podium. The mob calls on the FIA to let the racers race and only intervene when neccesary. So they did and deemed Verstappens move wrong. Which it was, because he took speed and momentum and cut the corner to overtake. The way he and his dad reacts irritates me. I understand the frustrations, but it isn’t correct to call stewards mongoloids (which he did on dutch television), saying that he hopes that no one would visit the GP next year, demanding Whitings retirement or… Read more »

Jos Van de Belt

On the other hand, he passed RAI verry clever. There was a little gap, so VER was right to go for it, but he had a little to much speed to make the corner in a correct way. With two wheels on the track he would have had a sharper corner and possibly understeered into kimi.


Its all Raikkonen’s fault, if he was a real racer, he’d have straight lined the whole sequence of corners, stayed in front of Verstappen and passed Vettel

Salvu Borg

Kimi was forced to save fuel (save fuel mode) go over pit to car radio for information, from some way back from what happened.


I was having a joke Salvu, but he could have saved more fuel by straightining all the corners ;-)

peter riva

Exactly, KIMI knows how to Rally!


Build the circuits properly so that any driver going off track automatically loses out. Then no-one would need to bother with freeze-framing and white lines and penalties.


Its coming up with ‘proper’ that’s the hard bit.
What’s your suggestion?

Salvu Borg

what is the difference between a driver going off track automatically loses-out and being made to lose-out?. a white line marking the track will not damage the car nor the driver, a wall, grass or gravel can.

Rich Saylor

IMO, if you put something other than tarmac at the off-track insides of corners, you run the risk of off-track excursions causing a loss of control, and possible shunts as a result. If somehow some sort of surface or deterrent to discourage such driving maneuvers is- or becomes- feasible, fine; but as things are better to have penalties rather than crashes.

Max Johnson

Max had it coming, he broke the rules many times before, double moving under braking and getting off track, and this is the first time he is punished. The people around him, like Horner and his dad, promotes his bad conduct and when he is punished like now he can’t tolerate it.


Great article Dave, good background and perspective on the whole track limits history.


Niki Lauda is correct in saying that if they really don’t want people using the available space, then put a wall there and be done with it. He is just as wrong when he argues that the white line is not a limit, and that stewards should not interfere. Per the rules, that’s exactly what the white lines are, and if the stewards don’t interfere when the limits are abused, why have a track at all? The Verstappen penalty was unfortunate, but entirely correct. He clearly cut the corner, leaving the track to complete the pass. The stewards are to… Read more »

Salvu Borg

shortening the track to make an overtake is like taking a short-cut. the reactions of both the Verstappens and Lauda out to have been better.

Andrew Defayette

Bulls*** call!!! Seems personal!! Maybe F1 wants to destroy viewership!! That was an amazing pass to be taken away by some A-HOLE!!!

Roger Gomes

Track limits are exactly that. Max went beyond track limits to gain an advantage and he got exactly that by carrying more speed and managing to overtake Raikonnen. I think the reason the track limits debacle is coming up now is because there is no natural deterrent for drivers not to use it, whereas before they just used to have gravel traps, so no drivers would intentionally wonder beyond track limits because it would mean lost time, gravel in their radiator ducts, possibly a broken front wing to boot. Now, because it is just tarmac the drivers push the boundaries… Read more »


Forgive my ignorance, I do not know the regulations on things like these. If a driver, while attempting to pass, runs another driver off the track is that an illegal move? When they show Magnussen do it, there’s plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Yet when Verstappen does it, it’s a magnificent pass. So what do the rules say about these things?


No-one likes it when they get penalised, but the “I was in the wrong but so were they” argument simply doesn’t wash. I’d say that Max’s corner-cut was one of the more blatant ones of yesterday’s race – he simply couldn’t have made the corner had he stayed remotely inside the lines – plus it was for a podium. Let’s remember too that all through the race the stewards had been looking at incidents that the commentators said they hadn’t spotted, so clearly they were taking a rather more active role than some stewards in previous races. I hate it… Read more »

Rijk van Wel

Perhaps Lauda is still pissed at Connelly for making the Mercedes team make a fool of themselves in Japan.

Any case, strike three — Connelly out!

Salvu Borg