MEXICO CITY — The controversy over the penalty that cost Max Verstappen pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix continued after the race had concluded at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Verstappen started from fourth after being demoted Saturday evening for ignoring yellow flags at the end of his final qualifying lap in Q3. The Dutchman had followed Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel past the wrecked Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, which eventually triggered yellow flags to be waved at the final corner.
Under the yellow flag regulations, drivers must “reduce their speed and be prepared to change direction,” and “it must be clear that a driver has reduced speed and, in order for this to be clear, a driver would be expected to have braked earlier and/or discernibly reduced speed in the relevant marshalling sector.” The stewards decided Verstappen had not done this but, speaking on Sunday evening, the Red Bull driver felt that was a double standard.
“The rule is very clear,” Verstappen said after finishing sixth Sunday in a frustrating race that saw him clash with both Hamilton and Bottas in the opening laps. “The only thing I want to say about it from my side is, because there were a lot of comments about it, and looking back, for sure I should’ve lifted — but then everybody should do the same.
“And I know Seb did the same, but one silver [Mercedes] car didn’t. And then he doesn’t get a penalty, and that annoys me as well. But it is what it is. I can’t decide for other drivers about the rules.”
As one of the main talking points of the weekend, FIA race director Michael Masi explained how the entire thing had unfolded. He confirmed Vettel had lifted and Hamilton had not been shown a yellow flag in time.
“Lewis’ one was quite easy — there was no yellow flag, even though the marshal did an amazing job at that point and showed the yellow flag relatively quickly, there was none for Lewis,” Masi said. “But for Sebastian and Max there was.”
Max’s comments irrelevant to outcome
There was speculation after the incident that the investigation had been triggered by Verstappen’s comments in the post-qualifying press conference.
When Verstappen confirmed he knew he was approaching a crashed car, he was asked if he had slowed down.
At that he smirked and said: “It didn’t really look like it did it? No.”
Asked why he didn’t back off, Verstappen added: “It doesn’t matter does it?”
When asked whether he had driven in an unsafe manner, he said: “Do we have to go there? To safety? I think we know what we are doing — otherwise we would not be driving an F1 car.
“It’s qualifying and, yeah, you go for it. But like I said before, if they want to delete the lap, then delete the lap.”
The official summons for Verstappen to visit the stewards came after these comments had been made to the media.
When asked if Verstappen would have been investigated regardless of what he had said, Masi replied: “100 percent. By the time I had referred it to the stewards and told the stewards the matter was to be looked at … it was after that that Max’s comments came to light.”
He explained why the process took such a long time.
“We were actually looking at it straight away. But with the sequence of what happened, the primary thing was Valtteri’s health, getting the medical car out there, making sure he was all OK.
“Being at the end of the session, that was one part. The second part was then once that happened getting the car back to the team, third element repairing the circuit for the next activity, so as my role as the safety delegate I went out there to make sure that everything was there in position.
“[When I got] back to the office and start working through the data that exists and looked over all three cars that were after Valtteri’s incident — which was Lewis, Sebastian and Max — and reviewed all three of them. So once I did that and looked at all the video evidence and the data …”
Masi went on to confirm that the severity and location of Bottas’ accident had affected the situation as it severed the sensors at the marshal posts, which would have allowed yellow flags to be activated on the LED boards around the circuit and in the cockpit of any car approaching the area.
“The traditional flags of single yellow, double yellow, green flag, white flag, slippery surface red and yellow, are all operated by the marshal operator at that point. So they each have a panel, press a button and bang that activates it.
“Safety Car, red flag, VSC is all operated from race control. So effectively all those that have to be activated simultaneously at all points are operated by us at race control.
“With the incident yesterday, Valtteri’s impact severed the chord from the guy pressing the button, so he could have pressed it as many times as he wanted, but the impact severed the chord. At that point there’s no ability for the light panel to get a signal. So that’s that part of it.”