Formula 1 marshalls accused Max Verstappen of ignoring a serious warning. The F1 series leader’s team fired back, citing “incompetence.”
On his third qualifying lap for the Qatar Grand Prix on Nov. 21, Verstappen was determined by F1 stewards to blow by double-yellow flags. The Red Bull Racing team contested the claim, calling the investigator “rogue.”
Formula 1 series leader Max Verstappen disputes double-yellow flag penalty
Following a meeting with the F1 brass the morning of the inaugural GP, Verstappen, who entered the event 14 points in front of hard-charging Lewis Hamilton, was assessed a five-grid penalty.
Backed by Red Bull Racing principal Christian Horner, Verstappen contends he was the victim of some type of retaliation by a steward. He should not have had to start P7, according to autoweek.com.
“Unfortunately, there’s a yellow flag—he just didn’t see it,” Horner told Sky Sports F1 on Nov. 21. “He saw the white one (panel), he saw the car, he even saw a green light on the right-hand side.
“I think it’s just a rogue marshal that stuck a flag out. He’s not instructed to by the FIA — they’ve got to have control of the marshals. It’s as simple as that. That’s a crucial blow in the championship for us. We’re now starting P7 at a track you can’t overtake at. That is massive.”
Marko: ‘It’s just about the inconsistency’
The transgression started near the end of a qualifying session on Nov. 20. Pierre Gasly wrecked his machine and sat near the start-finish line. F1 stewards claimed Verstappen ignored double-yellow flags, a warning which forces racers off the track for safety precautions.
F1 employs strict regulations regarding yellow flags. Race officials delivered a letter to each team before the event detailing potential infractions. Drivers Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz also earned single yellow flag violations.
Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko piled on the criticism, calling out inconsistencies within the ruling.
“The anger is about one car not being shown a yellow flag, the next car being shown one, and the third car being shown two,” Marko said. “It’s just about the inconsistency.”
Marko pointed to the points race, which added to the apparent hypocrisy of Verstappen’s ruling.
Verstappen P7 start proved to be too much ground to make up
Verstappen eventually made up the grid penalty and earned a P2, but finishing well behind Hamilton’s second checkered flag in a row. With two events remaining, Verstappen’s lead over the four-time defending champion is down to eight points.
“It’s also about the world championship, with Verstappen ultimately having to recover through the field to finish second rather than start from P2 in the first place,” Marko said. “If Max had started second, it would have been closer.
“Logically, he lost some time in the initial phase and had to demand more from the tires.”
After he cooled down, Horner later issued an apology to the steward who waved the yellow flags.
Marko, however, offered no peace offerings.
“It’s ridiculous,” Marko told European media platform Sport1. “The FIA cannot set up a decent marshaling system and tries to hide its incompetence by putting it onto the shoulders of the drivers. In the digital age, the drivers have everything on the display. And there was nothing on the display. And suddenly, an inexperienced person was waving flags.
“Then the message came from Masi that it was OK, and at the same time, Max saw the green light which he thought was for him. It was just an unfortunate situation, and in my opinion, none of the drivers should have been punished.”