The FIA have reportedly accepted Max Verstappen should have been penalised for blocking in qualifying in Singapore with motorsport’s governing body making it clear to the teams that his reprimand cannot be used as a precedent going forward.
On a wretched weekend for Verstappen at the Marina Bay circuit, the reigning World Champion not only found himself out of qualifying in Q2, bumped out by AlphaTauri rookie Liam Lawson, but facing three stewards’ hearings.
One related to being slow to leave the pits and holding up his rivals while the other two were for impeding, one of which appeared to be a slam dunk case involving Yuki Tsunoda.
FIA steward Matteo Perini admits they made a mistake
And yet the stewards, mitigating that Red Bull hadn’t given the driver enough information over the radio, only gave Verstappen a reprimand for that. Red Bull were fined €5000.
Rivals and pundits alike were perplexed with even Verstappen conceding he had blocked Tsunoda.
“That was not good,” he told Motorsport.com. “I didn’t see him because I was on the radio talking about what was the problem.
“And then I didn’t get a call-up until he was basically behind me. It basically sums up my qualifying, it was just super hectic and messy.”
Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director George Russell said he was worried the stewards’ decision in Singapore would set a precedent.
“You want to have consistency across the board and it seemed pretty clear-cut with a number of those incidents,” he said. “It was strange that they got away with that one. It didn’t really affect any results.
“But it doesn’t matter if you’re leading the championship or you’re last, if you get in somebody’s way you should be penalised for it.”
The good news is in the future the stewards will hand out grid penalties, not a slap on the wrist.
According to Motorsport.com, the subject of Verstappen’s antics as well as that of Logan Sargeant came up during Friday’s team manager meeting at the Japanese Grand Prix where steward Matteo Perini, who was also present in Singapore, admitted that ‘on review, the on-track reprimand decision handed to Verstappen should have been a grid penalty’.
Conceding that the stewards got it wrong, Perini made it clear that ‘the Verstappen call would not be used as precedent in the future, and also that a lack of radio warning on approaching cars should not be seen as mitigating circumstances that protect the driver from a more serious punishment.’
In future antics such as Verstappen’s will see the three-place grid penalty be applied.