Max Verstappen changes his mind on FIA penalty dished out at Las Vegas Grand Prix

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battle into Turn 1 at the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Red Bull's Max Verstappen duel.

Max Verstappen was initially incensed about a time penalty, but has admitted his punishment was probably merited.

The Dutch driver was given a five-second time penalty for a first-lap incident while racing Charles Leclerc into Turn 1. Getting a better launch off the line, Verstappen stuck his nose up the inside and ran wide to push the Ferrari driver wide.

With both needing to run into the escape area to resume the track without incident, the stewards chose to examine the moment and handed the Red Bull driver a five-second time penalty – he served this at his first pit stop on Lap 16.

Max Verstappen changes mind on stewards’ time penalty

When informed by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase that he had been given a five-second time penalty, Verstappen was initially quite annoyed as he took to the radio to exclaim about the steward’s call.

But, in the post-race clarity, once the adrenaline had dissipated, Verstappen explained the situation from his perspective.

“Well, the start was good,” he said.

“But then, we both braked quite late to defend the position. I was a bit on the inside, on the dirt, I guess.

“As soon as you are off line here, it’s super low grip. And that’s what happened. I braked and there was no grip.

“I didn’t mean to push Charles off the track, but I couldn’t slow down. I kept sliding on four wheels, wide.

“So that’s why we had to go wide.

“At the time, also from adrenaline, I was not happy with the decision.

“But, looking back at it, that was probably the right call. After that, of course, with those five seconds, it was definitely a bit harder to come back to the front.”

Verstappen might have been able to head off the penalty had he handed the position back to Leclerc in the opening laps, a decision he opted against as Lambiase also told him Red Bull were happy he had sufficient grounds to keep the position.

Did handing the position back to Leclerc cross his mind?

“I think we opted to just stay ahead, at that point,” the three-time World Champion explained.

“So then you take the five-second penalty. I don’t know what’s better at the end. I mean, I paid the penalty, right? So it doesn’t matter in a way, you know?

“If you go back behind, you probably also end up losing five seconds. It’s pretty similar.” recommends

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Charles Leclerc: Five-second time penalty was deserved

Charles Leclerc, with whom Verstappen enjoys a friendship, said he had been initially annoyed by the incident but it had all been cleared up after a post-race discussion between the pair.

“Max already came to me and explained the situation,” he said. “Obviously it was on/over the limit. I think the five-second penalty is deserved. It was tight.

“I still tried to push off the track but it was so low grip. It’s the way it is. He has been penalised, he paid the penalty and I think that was the right penalty to give.

“I just think that in those kinds of situations, it would be better for the FIA to ask to give the place back because I think there is quite an advantage to take of care of the tyres when you have free air.”

Verstappen was involved in another time penalty later in the race, albeit as the innocent party, when he and George Russell made contact as the Red Bull driver overtook the Mercedes on Lap 26.

The Red Bull man said he knew there had been no malice in the move from Russell, and wasn’t sure whether the five-second time penalty was needed.

“That’s always a tricky one,” he said.

“I mean, he didn’t do that on purpose.

“I think he just didn’t expect me to pass him into that corner. Because that’s how it felt like, I put it on the inside and he just turned in like there was no one there.

“So I guess he just didn’t see me.”

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