Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen believes he left Valtteri Bottas “enough space” during the incident in Formula 1’s Italian Grand Prix that handed the Dutchman a time penalty.
Verstappen made a strong start to the race from fifth on the grid, jumping the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport car of Bottas on the first lap, and comfortably keeping the Finnish driver behind for most of the race.
After both had made their sole pitstops, Bottas began to close in on Verstappen, who was running in third place, and defended his position robustly.
On lap forty-three of the fifty-three lap race, Bottas slipstreamed Verstappen along the main straight and moved to the outside of Turn 1, in an attempt to make a pass.
The Red Bull driver then moved across to the left-hand side of the track, making contact with the right-front of the Mercedes. Bottas was forced down the escape road, losing nearly four seconds in time.
Race control decided that Verstappen was at fault for the collision, and handed him a five-second time penalty. However, once told he refused to cede position to Bottas, allowing the recovering Sebastian Vettel to close in.
At the end of the race, Verstappen took third on the road, but after his penalty was demoted to fifth, behind both Bottas and Vettel.
“I think I gave Valtteri enough space on the left so he didn’t need to go off the track,” he explained.
“The rule says that as long as you give the other driver a car width [of] space, it should be enough.
“That’s what I did, but he clipped my wheel at Turn 1 and had had to go straight on. I don’t agree with the penalty, but the decision is taken and we can’t do anything about it.”
Verstappen pleased with competitiveness shown
“I think if you look at the car performance, we’ve done a really good job in being that competitive on this track today,” said the 20-year-old.
“I don’t think it could have been better for us and finishing third on the road was a good result, unfortunately, we got the penalty and I was put back to fifth.
Despite Verstappen and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo taking the upgraded and more powerful, but less reliable spec-C Renault power-unit, Verstappen still believes it is lacking in outright top-speed.
“I’ve tried to do the best race I could and I had to fight for it as we are so much slower on the straights,” he explained.
“In general, keeping a Mercedes behind you on this track is a very positive sign and hopefully we can keep this momentum going to Singapore where our car is usually strong.”
After the fifth-place finish, Verstappen sits in fifth in the drivers’ championship on 130 points, with team-mate Ricciardo, who retired with a clutch failure, in sixth on 118.
Red Bull is third in the constructors’, 142 points behind Scuderia Ferrari but 162 ahead of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team.