Max Verstappen says the penalty which cost him a podium in the Monaco GP energised him in his engrossing battle with Lewis Hamilton.
Although the Dutchman ran nose-to-tail with Hamilton for almost a quarter of the race, crossing the line in second place, he was classified fourth thanks to an earlier five-second penalty imposed for an unsafe release from his pit stop.
Released into the path of Valtteri Bottas, who had run second before the stops, Verstappen made contact with the Mercedes, with stewards ruling that the Red Bull “had the opportunity to avoid the contact contributing to the unsafe release”.
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From there, Verstappen found himself in the curious position of being boxed in between three cars – behind Hamilton, who was preserving his tyres, and ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Bottas – knowing that his fate was sealed unless he overtook the Mercedes.
“It fired me up,” Verstappen told reporters. “As soon as I heard the penalty I was just pushing Lewis really hard because initially he was driving so slow.
“Then I heard I had the penalty so I just kept pushing him. Then of course he had to push because I would attack him, then he destroyed his tyres.
“So that was my only way of trying to get by.”
On harder and more durable tyres, Verstappen increasingly ran within one second of Hamilton as the race wore on and although he could get close to the back of the Mercedes, particularly at the hairpin, the world champion pulled away on the straights.
Verstappen’s one half-chance came at the harbourside chicane with two laps to go, but the pair made contact and Hamilton stayed ahead.
“I couldn’t really plan because I was always so close out of the hairpin, but out of Turn Eight I just lost that momentum,” recalled the 21-year-old.
“At one point I was like ‘okay, let’s have a go and see what happens’ then we had this little touch. Under braking you don’t look in your mirrors already and, anyway, they are difficult to see through. I think there was no one to blame and we didn’t have any real damage.”
Verstappen believes the incident with the other Mercedes which led his penalty was “just unfortunate” as Red Bull released him from the pit lane.
“I didn’t know there was anyone next to me because they released me and of course it was all getting a bit tight,” he said.
“We were ahead, it’s a shame that we touched. But I couldn’t see him.”
This article originally appeared on Sky Sports and was replicated with permission.
“I think in the past over the years, we’ve had drivers and teams who have gone into the weekend with a confidence as the outright favourite but have still come out the other side without the trophy,” he told FoxSports.com.au.
“That Triple Crown has alluded all of us for the amount of time that we’ve been up in Darwin.
“I think this is one of the strongest opportunities anyone has got to win the Triple Crown and if Scotty can do that then he would be the first and probably, at the moment, the only one.”
The dominance of the Ford Mustang and the ensuing parity debate that followed suggested it was the car that was the reason for McLaughlin’s 415-point difference to the nearest Holden.
However, since changes to the Mustang have been made in order to bring the cars closer together, the reigning Supercars champion has not been pegged back as much as the other in the same model.
“In different eras or decades you have a combination of a driver and a team that have dominated and Scotty is in that prime at the moment,” Lowndes added.
“There’s been adjustments to the Mustang since the beginning of the season but he’s continued on that winning way, so there’s definitely a Scotty McLaughlin effect and he’s still winning races, still delivering and all credit to him given everything that’s been thrown at the Ford side that he’s still able to maintain his speed.”
Lowndes is one of nine drivers who has won one of the last 11 races in Darwin with only McLaughlin and Erebus’ Dave Reynolds as the only repeat victors.
The Darwin Triple Crown goes to the driver who wins both races as well as Top 10 Shootout yet of the 56 Supercars races at Hidden Valley, more winners have come from P2 on the grid than anywhere else.
And Lowndes, who retired from full-time racing last season, said the long straight from the start line is the reason why it is so tough to hold on to the lead from lights out to chequered flag.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for the Mustang this weekend. Hidden Valley has got one of the longest straights that we compete at and we will see this weekend what their straight-line speed is like.
“It’s been quite difficult for a team or driver to dominate all the races and qualifying.
“It is unpredictable. Where you qualify is not necessarily where you finish the race.
“It’s one of the longest runs from the start line to Turn 1 so if you have a bad start then you can get swamped – which is another factor as why you can’t convert the qualifying result into the race result.
“Even if you have a slight error in that launch off the line you will get swamped by two or three rows, not one or two cars.
“There’s a lot of elements which will challenge the drivers and teams this weekend and why we’ve seen no one, as yet, has won that Triple Crown.”
It was a poor decision from the stewards to hand an in-race five-second penalty to Sebastian Vettel in Montreal.
I don’t believe a penalty was due, but even so they could have investigated it after the race with the benefit of more time and data, and after speaking with both drivers.
I am not going to beat up on the stewards, they have the regulations, knowledge, footage, data, process and precedents to follow. You have to have rules and a referee otherwise you have anarchy and the whole thing would fall over.
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Ferrari appeal Vettel penalty
Emanuele Pirro represented the driver element on the panel, and he is a passionate and knowledgeable racer who has given way more back to motorsport than he has taken and continues to do so.
Vettel did lose control of the car which instigated the whole issue. Whether it was turbulence from the backmarkers in front, something on the track surface, or carrying a fraction too much speed, the back of his car stepped out.
It was not a big error, and certainly no greater than Lewis Hamilton’s as he locked his brakes several times at the turn 10 hairpin and ran wide. Only a racing driver knows how it feels when a car unexpectedly snaps away like that.
UNLIKE ANY OTHER SPORT
In motorsport we do not have regulation pitch, court, net and ball dimensions. We have ever-evolving and widely-varying racetracks. A driver’s job is to drive to the absolute edge of the variable limit of grip depending on track, weather, fuel load and tyre conditions.
Especially in such a titanic battle as we were witnessing, a racing driver does not leave a safety margin in every braking zone and corner just in case the car unexpectedly slides. That’s road driving.
The geography of the track layout is all important here.
The T3/4 chicane in Montreal is unsighted, bumpy, slippery, downhill and effectively feeds into a narrow tunnel. The run-off area is rough grass, and Vettel was either going to end up back on the narrow track at some kind of angle, or in a heap against the wall.
Lewis knew that, and that’s why he did not hit the Ferrari, but he’s an instinctive winner duelling with a fast car and driver, and that’s why he looked to take possibly his only passing opportunity until the wedge closed him off.
What Vettel did to Hamilton was not as abrupt as what Hamilton did to Daniel Ricciardo at the harbour chicane in Monaco in 2016, or indeed many other incidents in such places, and without penalty.
Let’s imagine that run-off area was dusty smooth tarmac, in which case Vettel would have probably lost little ground. Let’s imagine the run-off area was dusty smooth tarmac with a penalty bollard you must pass around before rejoining, like five corners later, in which case Hamilton would have likely been through. But it was not either of those two, and that’s why geography matters.
The stewards have to be consistent where possible, and whilst they are rarely the same combination of people, they do have a very comprehensive and reasonably accessible database. But it still needs interpretation and common sense.
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They certainly cannot make decisions based on whether it’s a close race or who might be winning, any more than a referee or umpire can allow or disallow incidents to help the show. But this duel should have been allowed to run and hopefully remedy itself, and then calmly considered post-race.
I cannot see how the penalty can be unravelled now, otherwise Mercedes will claim they would have pushed harder to overtake.
Just as with the famous Multi-21 Red Bull saga between Vettel and Mark Webber, I happened to be doing the post-race interviews, which was interesting to say the least.
WE WILL LET THEM RACE
Obviously Seb no-showed at the parc fermé party and the booing was intense as I spoke with Lewis. That was totally unfair, he neither made the error, nor the rules or decision. He just drove a stunning race in a car which was hurriedly put back together before the race.
Charles Leclerc looked slightly distant both on the grid and in parc fermé, and his race was a little lonely in third as they left him out in the hope of a Safety Car, at which point he dropped away from the top two. I was rather surprised to hear him say post-race he did not know Vettel had a penalty, because Seb was definitely getting the ‘push now’ and ‘everything you’ve got’ hurry ups to make sure he retained a post-penalty second place.
Just as I thought my interview role was over I was told Sebastian would be going to the podium and that I was to interview him after the champagne and if possible, get Lewis back into the debate.
So, in other words, chat with a very animated Seb who had been marching through garages and moving finishing position boards around, and invite into that conversation his arch rival Lewis, who was by now getting booed even more in fuller view up there.
‘KICK THE BALL INTO TOUCH’
Vettel filthy over relegation
I rather enjoyed Seb’s presence of mind in moving the position boards even if it was a bit churlish, but I absolutely admired his public call not to boo Lewis. He is a traditionalist, in many ways old school, and he would be joining many of us remembering the FIA declared a while back that ‘we will let them race’.
I’m not party to the processes and so I do not know what Charlie Whiting may have done, but I feel pretty sure I know what Niki Lauda would have said, even against his own team result.
I’m being romantic here, but Lewis and Mercedes would have done very well for the sport and themselves to effectively kick the ball into touch and say to Ferrari ‘get Leclerc off our tail and we’ll drop more than five seconds back from Vettel’. But why should they? Lewis drove a great race in pressurising Seb.
Vettel said after the race ‘it’s no longer about the title’ and they deserved the race win. Sadly for the spectacle, only seven races into the season the numbers rather support the fact that Merc are sailing to both titles again. But there’s still 364 driver points available.
RICCIARDO READY FOR MID-FIELD DUEL
In other news, Renault had a great point scoring day in sixth and seventh which appears to be setting up a duel with the similarly powered rivals McLaren, who had one to forget, and Lance Stroll drove a very fine race to ninth from 17th by banking great pace on used tyres to afford himself a new set of medium compound tyres to the finish.
Valtteri Bottas had one of his difficult weekends and hopefully he can recover from that and not spiral down like last year. It was only one slip up in qualifying, and nowhere near as big as the mistake Lewis made when hitting the wall on Friday, but it’s how you recover which counts.
The outraged and furious ongoing debate over the outcome of the race will do F1 no harm at all, but I did feel very deflated when the penalty was announced and we were denied the last few laps of an epic duel between two great champions.
For the championship we needed Ferrari to win that, and as Vettel led a race for the 100th time, from a fine pole position, I think they deserved it.
Daniel Ricciardo should be penalised for a “dirty” move during the Canadian Grand Prix, according to Formula 1 legend Jacques Villeneuve.
Ricciardo steered his Renault through his best weekend of the year, finishing sixth.
However, the Australian star’s vital championship points are now under a cloud after Villeneuve on Tuesday night made fresh calls for him to face a punishment from FIA officials.
Ricciardo’s early-race defensive thrusts to block Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas were overshadowed by the huge drama surrounding the stewards’ decision to smack Sebastian Vettel with a five-second penalty which saw him surrender the race to championship leader Lewis Hamilton, despite crossing the line first.
Ferrari are appealing the decision of the stewards.
Villeneuve says stewards were wrong to punish Vettel — and should instead have penalised Ricciardo for his unsafe driving blocks while under breaking at the end of the long Canadian back straight.
“Ricciardo deserved a penalty for the way he drove in a straight line, and he didn’t get one. It’s often been like that.
“It’s bad for F1 anyway.
“It ruined the race because it was a bad call, not because, ‘It should have been a different winner.’
“If Vettel had done something dirty or bad, like Ricciardo did on the straight, that would have deserved a penalty, and that would have been fine, even though it would have been another Lewis win.”
He said the Vettel controversy is not completely black and white as some drivers will begin to take advantage of any grey areas they can exploit should Vettel’s unsafe return to the track go unpunished.
He also suggested Hamilton drove perfectly to highlight Vettel’s mistake, forcing stewards to take action.
Ricciardo on Tuesday defended Vettel, suggesting the German ace shouldn’t have lost the race as a result of the incident.
Ricciardo was on the wrong end of Hamilton’s own fortuitous dangerous re-entry after going off the track at Monaco in 2016. Hamilton did not receive a penalty and went on to win the race with Ricciardo finishing a close second.
Many drivers have backed Vettel, including Renault’s Ricciardo.
“I had an identical situation with Lewis in 2016 in Monte Carlo,” he told reporters.
“He had to go through the emergency exit and almost pushed me into the wall on his return. With me, it was tighter than now with him. He didn’t get a penalty. That was a good thing. It was a hard racing.”
There has been speculation in Formula 1 as to whether the rules even allow Ferrari to appeal, and the sport is now waiting to see exactly what grounds the Italian team have.
The stewards have received some support however, with former driver Jolyon Palmer telling the BBC they got it right in Montreal.
“By the letter of the law, Vettel was guilty. If he was forced to run all the way into Hamilton, that’s not safe. If he wasn’t, then he deliberately did it, and that’s not fair and deserves a penalty. You can’t have it both ways,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenberg says he was left frustrated and upset by Renault’s decision to use team orders to stop him passing teammate Ricciardo in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.
The German driver came home seventh just four-tenths of a second behind the Australian despite racing on fresher tyres and having more pace in the closing stages of the race.
Hulkenberg made his only pit-stop eight laps after Ricciardo and was closing in on him after he was passed by Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
Team boss Cyril Abiteboul confirmed the team had issued team orders to stop them racing each other.
“Yes, he is a bit upset, but I understand why,” he said.
“I think Nico would probably have had the pace to overtake him, but we said ‘we need the result’.
“I don’t like to do that and it is not the style of our team.”
The team collected a total of 14 points to double their 2019 total and rise from eighth to fifth in the constructors’ championship.
Ricciardo was delighted with his result.
“This weekend as a whole was pretty awesome. First double points for the team — that’s been a long time coming and Nico had a strong pace too.
“It was certainly hot, it was similar conditions here in 2017 and I learned from that, and kept hydrated which made me feel better today.
“We have some new parts coming so there’s a lot of positives to take, and for the Renault fans we can pull off another good one.”