Verstappen receives €50k fine for touching Mercedes W12

Date published: November 13 2021 - Michelle Foster

Max Verstappen holding his nose. Brazil November 2021

Max Verstappen received only a fine of 50,000 Euros after the FIA investigated him for touching Mercedes’ rear wing in parc ferme conditions.

Verstappen finished Friday’s qualifying for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix second quickest, the Dutchman crossing the line 0.438s down on Lewis Hamilton’s P1 time.

Parking his Red Bull after qualifying together with Hamilton’s W12, and also Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes as he was third quickest, Verstappen climbed out of his car and went to the back of it.

There he was caught on camera examining his Red Bull’s rear wing before moving over to Hamilton’s car and doing the same.

But by doing so he was finally adjudged to have broken parc ferme rules after a lengthy investigation.

Article 2.5.1 of the International Sporting Code states: “Inside the Parc Ferme, only the officials assigned may enter. No operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations.”

While it is not unusual for drivers to inspect one another’s cars after either qualifying or a grand prix, touching the car is not permitted.

What made the matter even more serious is that the FIA was looking at Hamilton’s rear wing and whether it contravened the rules governing the width of the DRS.

F1’s rules state that when the DRS flap is open, the distance between the elements must be ‘between 10mm and 85mm’, which means anything bigger is illegal.

FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer felt the gap on Hamilton’s DRS was bigger, and that the rules for the size of the gap when open “were not fulfilled”.

That Verstappen touched the wing, potentially opened an avenue of defence for Mercedes.

Verstappen was called to appear before the Interlagos stewards on Saturday morning at 9:30 local time.

The hearing lasted all of 16 minutes with Verstappen exiting the building and telling waiting journalists: “I can’t say anything about it now, we’ll see.”

Then with sprint qualifying only a few hours away, the stewards released their ruling and Verstappen could breathe a sigh of relief with no sporting penalty issued, instead the bank account will be €50k lighter.

The stewards were satisfied that Verstappen’s actions had not caused any harm to the structure of Mercedes’ rear wing.

“The stewards heard from the driver of car 33 (Max Verstappen) and team representative,” the report read.

“The stewards also examined a fan video taken from across the track, CCTV video footage taken from pit lane and in car footage from car 14, car 33, car 44 and car 77. In all, these videos gave a clear picture of what occurred in parc fermé following the qualifying session.

“Verstappen exits the car, then moves to the rear of his car. He then takes his gloves off and puts his right hand at the slot-gap of the rear wing of his car. He then moves to car 44 and repeats the exercise, touching the rear wing in two places, once on either side of the DRS actuation device, but on the bottom rear side of the wing, in the area of the slot gap and never near the actuator or the end fixation points.

“Clear, high definition video from the rear facing roll-hoop camera on car 44 shows that there is absolutely no movement of any of the wing elements on car 44 when Verstappen touches the back of the wing and the Stewards are satisfied, from watching all the videos, his body position and the video of the wing, that there was insignificant force when Verstappen touched the wing.

“It is clear to the Stewards that it has become a habit of the drivers to touch cars after qualifying and the races. This was also the explanation of Verstappen, that it was simply habit to touch this area of the car which has been a point of speculation in recent races between both teams.

“This general tendency has been seen as mostly harmless and so has not been uniformly policed. Nevertheless, it is a breach of the parc fermé regulation and has significant potential to cause harm.

“The stewards considering the fact that no direct harm was caused in this case, in the opinion of the stewards, and that no earlier precedent of penalties for this exists – on the one hand;
but that it is a breach of the regulation and has potential for serious consequences on the other, the stewards determine to take action in this case and order a fine of €50,000.

“The stewards further note that it is intended that all teams and drivers take notice that future breaches may incur different penalties from the stewards of those events.”

Verstappen arrived at the Interlagos circuit with a 19-point lead over Hamilton in the race for the World title.