Verstappen’s awesome last lap pass for third place on Kimi Raikkonen was set to become one of the most memorable moments of the season. It still is – but for all the wrong reasons.
Stewards decided he’d cut the track and gave him a five second time penalty, and it’s a decision that seems to have divided the F1 world. Even people from rival teams are saying he shouldn’t have been punished – people like Niki Lauda.
Now Niki Lauda should probably be busy celebrating Mercedes’ fourth constructors’ title, but the three-time champion is someone you can always rely on for a strong opinion, and he’s absolutely livid that Verstappen was penalised. He said:
“This decision is the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong. We’re racing drivers, we’re not on a normal road. It’s ridiculous to destroy the sport with this kind of decision.”
He also claimed it goes against a decision made last year to get the stewards to interfere less with the racing, and that penalising stuff like this is a step too far.
“The stewards were in, Todt asked everybody, Charlie [Whiting] was there, we were there, and there we agreed all together that unless it is dangerous, the stewards would not interfere. Very simple. If they drive over [each other] and go upside down, only then they will come in. It was the beginning of last year.”
“Next strategy [group] meeting we need to bring it up to the agenda and start it all over again. Because we cannot do that, it’s going too far.”
If the stewards have said one thing and then done another, I’d be pretty annoyed too!
Even though Verstappen did break the rules by leaving the circuit and gaining an advantage, Lauda argued the white lines mean nothing and that if officials don’t want drivers cutting the circuit, they should put physical measures in place to prevent it.
“Charlie argues all the time there’s white lines and you cannot drive over them. Why cannot you drive over white lines if it is possible? Build a wall there if you want. As long as there is normal circuit, you can use it. A white line is not a limit. We agreed this all, last year it was all agreed. And now we get this decision. I think it’s completely wrong.”
That’s a pretty passionate plea from Lauda for a driver from another team! But he’s still a racer at heart and he wants to see good, entertaining racing without interference from others. Don’t we all?!