Max Verstappen was able to avoid a penalty during the Australian Grand Prix and was allowed to just let Fernando Alonso passed him after confusion to who was ahead when the latter exited the pits during the Virtual Safety Car period on Sunday.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen was on track as McLaren F1 Team’s Alonso exited the pits, and with just 0.1 seconds separating the two as they entered the yellow flag zone – caused by the stranded car of Romain Grosjean at turn two – Red Bull made contact with the FIA to determine just who was ahead, and when it was revealed as Alonso, Verstappen waved the Spaniard passed.
Technically, Verstappen could have been handed a penalty for passing under yellow flags, but FIA race director Charlie Whiting felt that would be unjustifiable, and allowed the switch to happen instead, with Alonso ultimately remaining ahead of the Dutchman until the chequered flag.
“Red Bull said, ‘We think Fernando was in front’,” said Whiting on Sunday. “I wanted to check because it’s not completely clear. I asked the timekeepers to confirm which car was first, and they said Alonso by a tenth of a second.
“And hence that’s why it was difficult to actually see with the naked eye – unless you’ve got the facility to replay it slowly, and that sort of thing.
“We’ve got to make sure of course, and once we were sure, I said to Red Bull Max has got to let Alonso past. Before I could get on to McLaren and say we’ve told Max to let Fernando past, Max was saying, ‘Come on then!’ [waves].
“And we hadn’t got the message to Fernando. We’ve done that before, when it’s not clear to the drivers it’s not fair [to penalise them].”