Red Bull driver Max Verstappen seized victory at the Austrian Grand Prix 2019 at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday. The Dutchman pulled off the race-winning move on Charles Leclerc where the two nearly banged wheels. The matter was investigated and there were fears that the FIA may intervene in the race result, like how they did for the Sebastian Vettel incident.
The incident comes in the wake of recent controversial penalties imposed on Sebastian Vettel in Canada. However, the FIA defended their decisions taken in Canada and again in France and Austria. They believed that comparing the Vettel incident and the Verstappen incident was like comparing “apples and oranges”.
Fortunately for Red Bull, Verstappen escaped any sanction and kept his Austrian GP win. This was after he and Charles Leclerc made wheel-to-wheel contact, pushing Leclerc off-track. The stewards decreed that both drivers were at fault for the incident.
Since then, opinions have been divided and compared to the 5-second penalties at the previous two races in Canada and France. In those situations, Sebastian Vettel lost the Canadian GP win, and Daniel Ricciardo lost a points finish at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
A clearly unhappy Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto declared that “clear rules” were put in place to prevent drivers like Leclerc being forced off the road. According to him, these were “exactly the same rules which have been applied in past races”.
However, FIA F1 race director, Michael Masi told Motorsport.com that comparing the two incidents was “effectively trying to compare apples and oranges.”
Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo seemingly forced their rival off-track after going off they too went off track. Vettel skittered off while leading in Montreal and took a trip across the grass. The FIA believed that the Ferrari driver rejoined unsafely and forced Lewis Hamilton wide.
Meanwhile, Ricciardo tried to pass Lando Norris but ran wide into the chicane, went off-track. The key moment was that all four wheels were off track, however he tried to keep the inside line. This forced the McLaren of Norris to go off-track on the outside.
Unlike Vettel, Verstappen was making a legitimate overtaking attempt when his incident occurred, and unlike Ricciardo, Verstappen remained in control of the car at all times and did not leave the circuit.
“Each and every incident needs to be considered on its own merit, different corners, different profiles, different circumstances,” said Masi. “Trying to compare the three of them, they are three very different incidents.
“In the stewards’ view it was a racing incident. It was just good, hard racing from the perspective they saw.”
“He went into the corner, braked later, Charles obviously saw him coming and stayed out wide,” said Masi.
“And Max, in braking a lot later, ‘late-apexed’ and at all times was pretty much on full lock and tried to power out. The same thing that happened the lap previously didn’t occur again.”
“The big difference between the footage I’ve seen of the two is that Nico looked across on that occasion,” added Masi. “Whereas Max is very much focusing on the corner and getting out of it as quickly as possible.”