Max Verstappen retains Austrian GP pole after stewards investigation

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, June 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the Austrian Grand Prix. Spielberg, June 2023.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen faced the stewards over an alleged infringement during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen snatched pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix after a superb performance in Friday qualifying, but the reigning World Champion’s front-row position was potentially under threat when he was summoned before the stewards for an alleged block.

Verstappen was alleged to have hindered the progress of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen during the session, with the stewards summoning the World Championship leader before them an hour after qualifying ended.

Max Verstappen went to see the stewards

Verstappen, as well as a representative from Red Bull, along with Magnussen and a Haas team representative, visited the stewards’ office at 8pm local time (7pm UK), to discuss Verstappen’s alleged breach of Article 37.5 of the FIA Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, in which he is accused of “unnecessarily impeding Car 20 [Magnussen] at Turn 1”.

The lap in question was during the Q1 session after the red flag interlude, with Magnussen’s lap one of many deleted during the qualifying hour for exceeding track limits. But, with the stewards determining that Magnussen did not need to take “significant” avoiding action, Verstappen was cleared.

“The driver of Car 1 [Verstappen] stated that he saw a car approaching after he crossed the line at the end of his push lap and moved to the left of the track after the exit of Turn 1,” the steward report began.

“The driver of Car 20 [Magnussen] stated that he had to move to the right to avoid Car 1 and hence lost time on his fast lap.

“The stewards determined from the video (and audio) evidence that Car 20 had clipped the kerb in Turn 1 and that this subsequently caused a slight change in acceleration which in turn resulted in a slightly slower time on the next mini sectors.

“The stewards further determined that Car 20 did not have to take significant evasive action.

“We further note that the fact that the lap time of Car 20 was subsequently deleted (due to exceeding track limits at Turn 10) was irrelevant to this decision. Any incident is always investigated independently of other incidents or penalties.”

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Following Magnussen being knocked out in Q1 in 19th place, Haas’ team boss Guenther Steiner pointed the finger at Verstappen for causing his driver problems.

“On the second run on the first lap, after Turn 1,” [Kevin] found Verstappen parked on the outside,” he said.

“[He] obviously lost some time and concentration and he couldn’t better his second fast lap, and that was it for him.”

Max Verstappen acknowledged incident with Kevin Magnussen

While the Dutch driver obviously didn’t bring up the moment as he spoke to media after the session, Verstappen had questioned it with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase.

With Verstappen moving out of the way of Magnussen exiting Turn 1 as the Red Bull driver slowed following a push lap, he radioed in to query whether Magnussen was “on a fast lap?” to which Lambiase affirmed.

On Haas’ team radio, Magnussen can be heard complaining about Verstappen’s presence, saying: “Verstappen was completely in the way”.

With Sergio Perez having failed to make it into Q3 after being caught out by track limits during Q2, Verstappen and Red Bull have avoided what could have been a grid penalty should the stewards have ruled the other day, ensuring there is still a major positive for the team to take from qualifying.

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