Max Verstappen has accused Formula One’s rulemakers of “killing the sport” and called on fans to boycott next year’s United States grand prix after he was stripped of the final spot on the podium.
Verstappen, who started 16th following an engine penalty, appeared to have completed a remarkable comeback by passing Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap. But the Red Bull driver was handed a five-second time penalty after he was adjudged to have gone off the track when he made his move on the Finn in a thrilling conclusion to Sunday’s race.
Verstappen was in the pre-podium green room readying himself for the top-three celebrations when he was told he had been demoted to fourth. The 20-year-old left shaking his head before taking aim at the FIA. “We had a great race, but with these stupid decisions you really kill the sport,” Verstappen told Sky Sports.
“I really hope the fans didn’t like this decision and hopefully next year they won’t come. It’s not good for the sport and they have to be really clear on the rules that running off the circuit is not allowed anywhere.”
Mercedes Formula One chairman and three-time world champion Nick Lauda joined a chorus of criticism after the decision, telling motorsport.com the penalty was “the worst I’ve ever seen. He [Verstappen] 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.”
Lauda said he had personally been involved in the decision, made last year, that drivers would be able to race without steward interference.
“The stewards were in, [Jean] 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.”
He added that it was his understanding that drivers could use white lines to overtake their opponents.
“As long as there is normal circuit, you can use it. A white line is not a limit… last year it was all agreed. And now we get this decision.
“I think it’s completely wrong.”
Verstappen’s father Jos, a former driver who competed in more than a century of grands prix, also took aim at the sport’s governing body in a series of tweets.
“This is bullshitt (sic),” he wrote. “This sucks. Shame on you, FIA. Obviously F1 does not know what racing is.
“Only Max gets a penalty when he crosses the line. Nobody else the whole weekend.”
Jos then posted a picture of the FIA logo alongside the words: “Ferrari International Assistance”, suggesting that the Italian team are afforded favourable treatment.
Verstappen qualified sixth, but was sent down the order as punishment for an engine change. He stormed back through the field, passing the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, before launching his assault on Ferrari’s Raikkonen on the closing lap. His Red Bull team celebrated wildly, but they were brought back down to earth when the news of his penalty came through.
It marks the second time inside 12 months Verstappen has been denied a podium by the stewards after he was also penalised in the aftermath of last year’s Mexican grand prix.
“There have been cars going off track all day today, and no action was taken so I think it’s unbelievably harsh to give Max a penalty for that,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner added. “It’s wrong, it’s wrong.
“For me, it was fair, hard racing and I think that’s a bad judgement by the stewards to have made that call. To penalise him at this stage is not right.”