BusyFormula #025: Was Verstappen’s three-place grid penalty for the Russian GP incident sufficient?

The stewards handed Verstappen a three-place grid penalty for causing a collision with Lewis Hamilton on Lap 26 of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. This penalty will be effected at the Russian Grand Prix in the next round. Lewis Hamilton, for his part, said he was “proud” of the stewards for setting a precedent to deal with Max’s increasingly belligerent driving style.

“If that’s the result, then I think I’m ultimately proud of the stewards,” the shaken Hamilton told reporters at Monza.

“It definitely sets a precedent, and I think it’s important for us moving forwards for the safety of the drivers that there are strict rules set in place.”

While Hamilton might be satisfied with the stewards’ decision, I am not. The penalty that Max got does not fit the crime he committed of deliberately crashing into Lewis, in a move reminiscent of the 1989 crash between Senna and Prost where the latter deliberately drove into the former to stop him from overtaking and winning the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

I feel that Formula1 has to do more than hand out token penalties for massive incidents if they want to keep the racing clean and avoid being accused of playing favorites. I believe that Lewis would have been handed a much harsher penalty had the roles been reversed. But what actually happened?

What Verstappen did to Hamilton at Monza?

While driving in Mad Max mode after a botched pitstop cost him 11 seconds and brought him out behind Norris and far from Ricciardo, Max was determined not to allow Lewis to go past him after Lewis pitted on Lap 26. This set the two on a collision course, and since neither of them was willing to yield the position, Max hit the sausage kerb on the inside of Turn 2 and was sent flying over the top of Hamilton, who for his part had done a lot to avoid the collision. Lewis had also yielded to Max on Lap 1 to avoid a collision, a favor that Max was not willing to return.

What infuriated many the most was Max’s statement after the crash, which indicated that the crash was deliberate. He said;

“That’s what you get when you don’t leave the space,” showing his lack of maturity and level of entitlement. Max expects other drivers to just move over and let him by out of fear that he will crash into them. Even drivers he’s in a battle with for the world championship.

Many in the F1 paddock criticized the deliberate foul by Verstappen, with even the legendary Sir Jackie Stewart commenting on Max’s lack of maturity for not even checking to see that Lewis was ok after the incident.

”Verstappen is taking longer than expected to mature. Not even to go to see Hamilton after a serious accident when you have just driven over the top of the guy is something I don’t really understand. Especially when he is still in his car and remained there for a long time before getting out. Max has quite a lot to learn. But who will he listen to,” said Sir Jackie.

However, even with all that condemnation and criticism coming from F1 legends like Sir Jackie and Damon Hill, the stewards only saw fit to give Max a three-place grid penalty despite almost killing the most successful driver and brand in Formula1 history. How does this compare to Max’s other 3 place grid penalty in recent years?

Verstappen’s 3 place grid penalty from Mexico 2019

During Qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix in 2019, Max was handed a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down enough for yellow flags during his hot lap. Consequently, Max was stripped of his pole position and started the race in fourth place.

While not slowing for yellow flags is a direct violation of the FIA’s codebook, it is not comparable to almost breaking another driver’s neck simply because you never back out of a fight. While I do commend the stewards for finally imposing a penalty for Max’s dangerous driving, I feel like they gave the lowest penalty possible for such an incident. Unfortunately, this penalty will not go far enough in deterring Mad Max, as he has come to be known in the paddock.

I feel that the stewards should have handed Max at least the same five-place grid penalty they gave Valtteri Bottas after Hungary when he accidentally missed his braking point in the wet and took out rivals Lando Norris and Sergio Perez. With this lenient penalty, F1 has shown all of us who they are backing for this year’s World Champion and surprise, surprise, it is not Sir Lewis Hamilton.

Julius Kakwenzire is a self-confessed F1 addict. When he’s not getting emotional at the race track’s proceedings, he’s working on great fintech products at Lupiiya.

Julius Kakwenzire