September 13, (THEWILL) – Max Verstappen, race driver for the Red Bull F1 racing team, was handed a three-place grid drop for the next race in Russia after the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) deemed he was predominantly to blame for the crash with rival Sir Lewis Hamilton at Monza.
As THEWILL reported, McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday, ending McLaren’s nine-year victory drought, However, the biggest talking point was the crash that took out and ended the race for two of the fastest drivers in the championship.
The incident occurred on lap 26 as Verstappen attempted to go outside Hamilton in the braking zone. On the inside of the left-hander on exit, their cars collided in the middle and Verstappen’s car went over the orange “sausage kerb”. Upon contact, the Red Bull car was lifted with all four wheels off the ground.
The rear wheel of Verstappen’s car swiped the rear of the Mercedes in the process and made contact with the safety roll-hoop and halo head protection device of Hamilton’s Mercedes, which was what ultimately saved the Brit from grievous harm. And as they ended up on the gravel, they both retired from the race on the spot.
Upon investigation of the circumstances that led to the crash, the stewards deemed that, Verstappen was at no point in the manoeuvre fully alongside Hamilton. Therefore the Red Bull driver had no right to claim the corner. As a result, it was his responsibility to back out rather than force the manoeuvre.
The statement from the stewards gave a breakdown of the crash while detailing the rationale behind their penalty for Verstappen. With Hamilton’s Mercedes designated “Car 44” and Verstappen driving “Car 33”, it reads: “Car 44 was exiting the pits. Car 33 was on the main straight. At the 50m board before Turn 1, Car 44 was significantly ahead of Car 33.
“Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44.
“During the hearing, the driver of Car 33 asserted that the cause of the incident was the driver of Car 44 opening the steering after Turn 1 and “squeezing” him to the apex of turn 2.
“The driver of Car 44 asserted that the driver of Car 33 attempted to pass very late and should have given up the corner either by backing off sooner, or by turning left behind the kerb.
“The Stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb. But further, the Stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into Turn 1.
“In the opinion of the Stewards, this manoeuvre was attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 to have “the right to racing room”.
“While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the Stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.
“In coming to the penalty the Stewards emphasise that they have only considered the incident itself and not the consequences thereof.”
The decision to penalise Verstappen for the crash on Sunday was applauded by Hamilton. He claimed it was necessary as it set an “important precedent” for protecting Formula 1 drivers going forward, offering a clear pointer about when drivers need to give way when it came to battling hard for positions in the races.
The reigning F1 World champion said: “I’m ultimately proud of the stewards. I think I need some time to really reflect on it, but I think it definitely sets a precedent.I think it’s an important precedent moving forwards for the safety of the drivers that there are strict rules set in place.”
The 36-year-old also claimed that some drivers often got away with controversial clashes in the past and, until now, there had been nothing previously to discourage them from repeating their actions on the circuit. He added that a proper code of conduct for drivers, with clear rules about what they were and were not allowed to do when battling for a corner, would be a huge help to everyone.
“This will continue until we have to learn from our scenarios on track, and I don’t have a history of these incidents. Ultimately, when you get away with things like that, then it’s easy just to continue to do it. I think all of us drivers, we are on the edge. When we have the inside line, every single driver, past or present, will try to hold on to his position.
“Of course, when you’re wheel-to-wheel going into a corner, and the car is still alongside you wheel-to-wheel on the outside, then you have to concede and give extra space when the car is ahead of you. There is a known rule that the driver who is ahead, it’s his corner, and eventually a driver has to concede.
“I definitely do think we need to be looking into this and making sure that the right decisions are being made. No one wants to see anyone get injured, and if we can put some better protocols in, maybe we can avoid this sort of stuff in the future.”
There was calm reception of the penalty on Red Bull’s part. Christian Horner, the Team Principal of the Red Bull F1 racing team, said: “We are disappointed with the three-place grid penalty, but accept the stewards’ decision. We felt what happened between Max and Lewis was a genuine racing incident.
“You can argue for both sides, but ultimately it’s frustrating and disappointing to see both cars out of the race in what is proving to be an exciting championship.The main thing today is that the Halo ultimately did its job and certainly this isn’t the way we intended to finish the race.”
Verstappen himself reacted by saying he did not fully agree with his grid penalty for the next race in a fortnight’s time at Sochi in Russia. He remarked: “I don’t fully agree with the penalty as I believe it was a racing incident. It’s very unfortunate what happened today but we are both professionals and so we will move on.”
However, the Red Bull driver retains his five-point advantage over Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship due to their retirement at Monza.