Helmut Marko didn’t hold back in his criticism of the FIA after Max Verstappen was handed a grid penalty in Qatar.
It looked to be a relatively good qualifying session for the Red Bull driver with him doing enough to split the Mercedes pair and secure a front-row start for the race.
However, on his final flying lap, Pierre Gasly pulled over to the side of the track with a puncture, causing yellow flags to be waved, and Verstappen didn’t slow down for them, which ultimately cost him dearly.
The stewards took note and decided to hand him a five-place grid penalty, meaning he’d start the race from P7 and all but ending his chances of challenging title rival Lewis Hamilton for the win.
Red Bull were furious with the decision, with Christian Horner saying the FIA didn’t implement yellow flag conditions and claiming a “rogue marshal” waved one.
“To be honest with you, we are really struggling to understand it. It looks like a complete balls-up,” Horner told Sky F1.
“The FIA effectively said ‘play on’ on the circuit and it was safe and clear, and Max was in the beginning of the first sector so he had so much time to look at it. The dashboard on his steering wheel is indicating everything is fine, otherwise we would have informed him.
“Unfortunately, there’s a yellow flag and he just didn’t see it.
“I think it’s just a rogue marshal that stuck a flag out and he hasn’t been instructed to by the FIA. They’ve got to have control of their marshals. It’s as simple as that.”
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) November 21, 2021
Marko felt similarly to his Red Bull colleague, placing the blame on the FIA’s marshalling system and saying the governing body issued penalties to hide their own issues.
“It’s ridiculous,” the Austrian told DAZN.
“You know the FIA can’t organise a proper marshalling system and they are hiding their incompetence on the shoulders of the driver.
Horner was ultimately summoned to the stewards and given an official warning for his comments, being deemed to have breached the sporting code set out by the FIA.
The team principal was apologetic afterwards and committed to participate in the 2022 FIA International Stewards Programme.
“I’d like to make it clear that the marshals do a wonderful job,” Horner said.
“My frustration was not with the marshals but at the circumstance. If any offence was taken by any individual then I apologise for that.”