‘Just Max being an absolute nuisance for the leader’

Michelle Foster
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen behind the Safety Car. Saudi Arabia March 2022

Jolyon Palmer believes Max Verstappen makes an “absolute nuisance” of himself at Safety Car restarts, but says there is nothing in the rules that says he can’t.

Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix saw Verstappen and Charles Leclerc fighting for the victory around for the second race in a row.

This time, though, it was Verstappen who came out on top, the Red Bull driver getting his title defence up and running with a 25-point haul.

He succeeded late in the grand prix when he overtook Leclerc, the two have engaged in a thrilling DRS battle.

However, early in the race they also had a short fight, this time behind the Safety Car.

Brought out for Nicholas Latifi’s crash, Leclerc lined up P1 with Verstappen P2 and the Dutchman using what Palmer says are his usual tactics of trying to get side-by-side with the race leader at the restart to take the preferred line.

Leclerc, though, was wise to it.

“Max has a restart technique were he likes to get side-by-side with the leader and stop them turning in where they want to be,” he told F1 TV.

“Charles just didn’t bite.

“He forced Max slightly wide and stayed in the lead, no DRS of course on the restart, so the pressure wasn’t as bad but Max was really trying to force the issue with that side-by-side.”

Further explaining Verstappen’s actions, the former F1 driver turned commentator added: “What he’s doing is he’s stopping Charles from opening up the corner.

“Charles wants to be heading in that direction on the outside so he can swing into the left-hander that’s coming up and get the most speed through the corner.

“But because Max is alongside, he’s going to have a much better reaction time because there’s less distance that he can lose, he has a nice view of when Leclerc is going as well and he’s stopping Leclerc from getting to that outside line that he is wanting.

“Max doing his little weaving, Charles is accelerating and braking on the throttle and brakes all to try and get the tyre temps up. But the whole way through this, Max is just sitting there alongside.

“He doesn’t overtake, he’s just sitting there, just being an absolute nuisance for the race leader.”

Haas reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi questioned whether Verstappen’s tactics are even legal.

“Is that allowed?” he said. “I was wondering if that is allowed because at the end you are impeding the guy at the front.

“I think it is great because it causes some chaos but I don’t know is allowed.”

Palmer replied: “So long as you don’t overtake. Remember in Abu Dhabi were he just about did, it is a fine margin.”

Verstappen tried the same move on Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Abu Dhabi season finale, trying to cut off Hamilton on the restart.

“He even caught up with Lewis briefly and that was still being investigated by the stewards,” Palmer said. “Then he was on the racing line, so Hamilton could not really cut the corner.”

 

Sunday’s 25 points boosted Verstappen up to third place in the Drivers’ Championship where he trails Leclerc by 20, the Monégasque driver having also bagged the fastest lap point in Saudi Arabia.

 

PlanetF1 verdict

 

Palmer on Verstappen's 'nuisance' tactic

Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer has spoken on Max Verstappen's "nuisance" Safety Car restart tactic.