Why Max Verstappen escaped penalty for apparent restart grid error

Thomas Maher
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen leads away at the Australian Grand Prix. F1 Melbourne, April 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen leads away at the Australian Grand Prix. Melbourne, April 2023.

Max Verstappen’s positioning within his grid box on the final restart caught the attention of keen-eyed social media users…

A furore broke out on social media following the final restart of the Australian Grand Prix, with TV footage and photographs from fans in the grandstands suggesting that Max Verstappen’s front tyres had been too far forward in his grid box.

With Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso both picking up time penalties in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, respectively, for being lined up incorrectly in their grid slots, it initially appeared as though Verstappen’s position could warrant an investigation from the stewards.

However, the issue was never raised, with F1’s Sam Collins explaining why on F1TV’s post-race analysis.

“It did look like Max Verstappen was outside of his grid box, and this has been a story in all of the opening races of this season,” he said.

“So I decided to take a bit more of a detailed look at Max Verstappen starting on pole position and, sure enough, on the angle that was shown on the television footage, it does look distinctly like Max Verstappen is sitting forwards of the white grid box.”

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Article 48.1 (c) of the FIA’s Sporting Regulations states penalties can be handed to a driver should they have “any part of the contact patch of its front tyres outside of the lines (front and sides) at the time of the Start signal.”

Collins went on to refer to the wording of the regulation as being key to Verstappen’s innocence.

“After a bit of further investigation, it’s actually a little bit of a trick of the light, a bit of a trick of the angle of the camera,” he said.

“Actually, Max Verstappen’s wheels, the front wheels, the front tyres, are in contact with the white line of the grid box, which is the important factor here.

“The regulations state that no part of the tyre, the contact patch – that’s the bit of the wheel that actually touches the ground, can sit forwards of that white line, but the contact patch is just, by a matter of probably a few millimetres, fully in contact with the white line.

“So Verstappen’s car is just within the regulations. He is legal – this restart stuff, ‘was he out of grip position?’ It’s not accurate. He was in the correct grid position, only by a matter of millimetres, and he nearly got caught out when that car lurched forwards just at the start of the restart but, as it stands, his car was in a legal position for that restart.”