A controversy erupted when Max Verstappen was penalised for his exciting last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen for the Austin podium. The Red Bull driver’s father Jos was particularly furious, declaring on Twitter that the FIA should stand for ‘Ferrari International Assistance’. Max himself also voiced his displeasure. However, a comment directed towards an FIA steward, didn’t go down well with the authorities.
Max said that he felt robbed of 3rd place. The Dutchman accused one steward in particular of always penalising him for overtakes. The FIA steward in question is Australia’s Garry Connelly. Verstappen said “He’s an idiot who always decides against me. I hope the fans don’t like the decision and don’t come back next year.”
British and German media sources report that the FIA could look into whether Verstappen’s criticism of the steward brings the sport into disrepute. However, Red Bull boss Christian Horner doubts it. He said “If Lewis Hamilton is allowed to criticise the US president, then a frustrated driver is allowed to express his opinion”.
As for Verstappen’s actual overtake, expert opinions are mixed. Some say it was clearly illegal, others think that it was legal. Many argue that tracks should be modified to render track limit breaches impossible. Some pundits say the real problem is that only certain breaches of ‘track limits’ are penalised. F1 race director Charlie Whiting defended the Austin stewards’ decision.
Whiting said “In all other cases where the drivers left the circuit, they went a longer distance. Max on the other hand cut the corner with all four wheels”. Several screenshots of multiple drivers supposedly going off track, surfaced. People found it strange that Verstappen was called out for the offense, while others escaped sanctions.