Verstappen’s penalty: fair or an excitement killer?

Verstappen was understandably annoyed with the penalty - Octane Photographic Ltd

Controversy and Max Verstappen tend to go hand-in-hand in Formula 1, and last weekend’s race in Austin, Texas was no exception. But was it an unfair call on the stewards part to dish out the five-second penalty to him, whilst others exploited track limits all weekend long? And are decisions like this damaging the sport?

There’s no way of denying that Verstappen made the overtake on Kimi Raikkonen with all four wheels off the track. In that respect, the stewards were merely following the rules. There should be no further comment. But things in Formula 1 are rarely so cut and dry. No sooner than a frustrated looking Verstappen had been escorted out of the podium room, there was social media uproar.

Immediately, there were questions asked about why Verstappen had been singled out for a penalty when others had done the same as him. It appeared that the majority of the anger about the situation was not the fact that he had been penalised, but why he was the only one.

Of course, there were shouts of the FIA being the ‘Ferrari International Assistance’, or that Verstappen had been targetted because they couldn’t have anyone under twenty-one years old drinking on the podium in ‘Merica (watch out Lance Stroll, they’re coming for you next). But the reality of it is that the stewards felt that this was the most appropriate course of action for Verstappen leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Whether you or I agree with this, it stands and it’s what happened.

Verstappen was understandably annoyed in his interviews but other than calling one steward an ‘idiot’, he was reasonably levelled headed about the whole situation and made some fair points in his defence. He acknowledged that the move was made off track, and therefore ‘against the rules’, but questioned the consistency of the distribution of penalties. He also wondered whether the FIA made decisions such as these to ‘kill the sport’.

This statement I have an issue with. It’s all well and good that Verstappen brings the entertainment factor to Formula One, but if the FIA start ignoring these rules JUST to have a good show, then where will the limit be? No, the FIA couldn’t dismiss Verstappen’s overtake, no matter how crowd-pleasing it was. Rules, however trivial, are rules.

The case thus stands that all drivers should have been penalised for abusing track limits, whether overtaking or not. But they weren’t. The only other penalties that were applied during the race (let’s not get into engine penalties) were to Marcus Ericsson for an odd tussle with Kevin Magnussen. What about the images of Carlos Sainz Jr. or Sebastian Vettel circulating, that show both very much off track. Surely they should have been penalised as well? This is the crux of the matter, and the part that myself and many other fans and drivers found tough to comprehend.

Maybe I’m in the minority who think Verstappen deserved the penalty. That’s not taking anything away from what was an outstanding drive, and a hugely deserved Driver of the Day, but conversely, had he not been penalised, there would have surely been some sort of uproar from Ferrari. It works both ways. What does surprise me is the ‘selective’ nature with which penalties are applied, and this isn’t something that was unique to this race. The FIA need to address their decision-making process, because there have been times this season where, once again, a stewarding call has been surrounded with controversy.

So, to try and draw this argument to some sort of conclusion, the decision made by the FIA to penalise Verstappen was necessary and not damaging to Formula One. Instead, the sport has been harmed by the decisions that have gone unmade. Why is there one set of rules for one and another set for the other? Either they are all penalised for the same thing, or none. Singling out Verstappen didn’t sit well with a lot of fans because it seemed like some sort of vendetta and punishment for fantastic driving. This isn’t the case as it could have been any driver in the same position. But until the FIA can implement a fairer system of penalisation, uproars will continue to happen, whether or not the driver deserved it.

  • Dave Domenicano

    Rules are rules… hit the goal post and it’s not a goal, right?

  • RBW001

    Exactly. Lots of off track excursions but no advantage taken or positions would be given back. Verstappen and papa need to grow up. While Max was running people off track he said, too bad. What a little arrogant piece of sh1t. Jos is a [email protected] Like father like son.

  • Alex

    I think that these rules (track limits) are killing the adventure of an overtake. Liberty Media who wants more spectacle is actually denying spectacle by not allowing these Dare-devils to race. As spectator I’ ll go to watch a spectacle in all its glory…..Remember to movie Ben Hur…racing is about beating the opponents without thinking about penalties while your busy overtaking…Hmm Instead planning a so called show event with an over aged boxing ring announcer, the could have planned true race conditions, because that’s what we racing fans love about this sport. Pilots want to drive at the limit instead of driving to avoid a penalty.

  • Alex

    BTW they a look at this explanation and make up your mind

  • Bill Cape Coral

    Max Verstappen was wrong and he got the penalty he deserved. Just look at the above and you can see Max is clearly all four wheels off the track, the kid just does not learn from his mistakes, it is always someone else’s fault according to him and Horner.

    Max has a brake pedal in his car and he needs to learn how to use it, funny how so many think all the other drivers should use their brake pedal to let the cry baby Verstappen by but they never think the cry baby Verstappen has use his brake pedal.

    The guy in the video is an idiot.

  • Mike038

    I agree. Kimi also told us aftrbthenrace that he did not know that Max was on the inside. Max had to avoid a colission and did so by cutting the corner. And others (Bottas, Sainz) also went fully off the track and gaining some advantage and in qualifying many went off in corner 19 gaining advantage by that but they could keep their laptimes. So if it is a rule that crossing tracklimits is a penalty, than for ALL drivers!

  • Mike038

    FYI: “cry baby” is Vettel (or maybe even Massa) but not Max. From your foolish reaction I can clearly see you are not a racer.

  • Mike038

    Please look,back at Sainz (vs Perez) and Bottas (vs Ricciardo) and you will see you are wrong!

  • Mike038

    I agree as they apply to ALL drivers

  • Les

    And better and bottas. Better although an outstanding move ,perposly went off track to complete the manoeuvre.

  • Les

    Sorry. Vettel and bottas

  • gtx550ti sli

    Before you start shouting Fanboi fanboy fanbooiiii and fanboiyy.
    I am first of all a
    +35 years F1 fan, i was fan of Kimi before Ricciardo came, and now im rooting for Max. So i have a list off 3. We are not in the car trying to avoid a collision, go to youtube watch it in slomo, Kimi cut him off, Max was next to him, and in the last moment steers away, Max see Kimi comming, and then only then, he goos for it, otherwise he would have crashed into Kimi and get a dsq. Fair penalty but stewards are daft dumb and do not feel the vibe specialy this canolli motherlover. Japan 2016 Mexico 2016
    He did the same to Webber twice.
    Max should have given the possition back, like on Bottas!
    “Drops Mic”

  • gtx550ti sli

    You must have alot of friends

  • jjredfish

    If you go off the track WHILE PASSING someone, you have to LET THEM GO BACK AROUND or you get a penalty. Been that way for ages…

    And it doesn’t matter in the slightest if you feel like you were “forced” off, or if other drivers (including Max, btw…) were allowed to go wide on other corners. That was the same for everyone.

    Otherwise, with that “logic”, Max could cut straight through the chicane and pass lots of cars on just about every track on the calendar. Because someone, at some point in the race or qualifying, is always going to go off the track and not get penalized for it.

  • RBW001

    You can be my friend if you don’t borrow any of my tools.