Although he accepts Max Verstappen’s move on Charles Leclerc at Turn 1 was “hard racing”, Ted Kravitz doesn’t agree with the stewards’ decision to hit him with a five-second time penalty.
He does, however, believe part of the blame for that rests on Red Bull’s shoulders.
Lining up second behind Leclerc on the Las Vegas grid, Verstappen made a robust challenge into Turn 1 as he forced the Ferrari driver off the track, the Dutchman also running wide.
‘Is that not allowed anymore?’
Verstappen rejoined in the lead with Leclerc in second place, and was unhappy that Verstappen didn’t give him back the position.
Red Bull initially told Verstappen he didn’t have to as his nose was ahead at the time but then, as the incident was reviewed by the stewards, let him know it was his call but that he had the pace to overcome a potential time penalty.
Verstappen stayed ahead of Leclerc with the stewards giving him a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver off the track.
Kravitz doesn’t agree as he felt it was just “hard racing”.
“If we go to how Max Verstappen did it, well, it began with a very stout defence against Charles Leclerc on lap one,” he said in his Ted’s Notebook for Sky Sports.
“Now you can look at this two ways. The stewards decided to look at it in a way that merited a five-second penalty for forcing another driver off the track. I don’t know, I’ve kind of seen that before.
“I sort of felt that that was sort of hard racing. You go down, you’ve got somebody on the outside, and then you’re kind of walking him gently to the outside, compromising him while then you cut in and they go off.
“Is that not allowed anymore? I mean, yes, it was firm. It did cause another driver to go off the track.”
Kravitz explains what Red Bull ‘should have done’
He does, however, feel Red Bull could have avoided the penalty by telling Verstappen to give the lead back to Leclerc.
After all, the RB19 had the pace to challenge the Ferrari as Verstappen showed later in the race when he overtook Leclerc to win.
“What Red Bull should have done of course,” Kravitz continued, “was say, ‘Look, you know what the stewards are like’ – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, they could give you a penalty for breaking wind these days – ‘What you need to do Max is give Charles the place back, wait a lap and then inevitably pass him again’. They didn’t do that.
“So Max picked up the five-second penalty, which he served in his stop. Very good pitstop and he actually recovered to not only pass Charles Leclerc but there was a nice fight with Sergio Perez, his teammate, so that was what happened with that.”
Verstappen overtook Perez and Leclerc late in the race to set up the win, doing so despite missing a chunk of his front wing that was broken when George Russell hit him.
But with his low downforce wing still largely intact, he had the better straight-line in his late-race tussles.
“He rejoined actually after he served his pitstop, Max rejoined behind Zhou Guanyu and fought back, lost an endplate with a clash with George Russell which George Russell said was his fault,” said Kravitz.
“His low downforce wings, his low angles with wings… there wasn’t much in it between Checo Perez and Max Verstappen. It’s difficult to see, but there was a subtle change in the rear wings of Max Verstappen and Checo Perez. Max was a bit quicker in a straight line and it meant that he was able to overtake and get back into the lead.”
Saturday night’s victory marked Verstappen’s 18th of this season and Red Bull’s 20th in 21 Grands Prix.