A livid Sebastian Vettel has declared that youth or a lack of experience is no excuse for Max Verstappen’s antics during the Chinese Grand Prix. On lap 43, a visibly faster Verstappen was within touching distance of Vettel in third. But little did anyone expect for him to take ‘touching distance’ literally. The Dutchman locked up his rear tyres into the hairpin and tagged the Ferrari.
The 20-year old threw away a surefire victory and possible 1-2 for the Austrian team. Everything triggered when sister team Toro Rosso had both drivers collide on lap 35. The incident left debris on the racing line at the hairpin. In response to that, the Safety Car was deployed. Red Bull pitted both drivers while Vettel and race leader Bottas stayed out.
It would turn out to be a masterstroke as Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen scythed through the field quickly. Vettel even admitted his intention of staying out of the 20-year-old’s way.
“I didn’t seem him until very late. I left a little bit of room. I mean, to be honest, I was expecting him to come earlier. I had no intention to resist because it was clear with Daniel as well there was no point doing so.
“They were just too fast on the fresh tyres so I didn’t want to compromise my race to the guys behind but then obviously he did a mistake, he locked up, which happens. We have tailwind down that straight the whole race and I guess he misjudged and obviously compromised both of our results.”
The stewards ruled the incident as Verstappen’s fault and gave him a 10-second time penalty. As a result, the Dutchman dropped from fourth to fifth. Vettel’s fate was worse than Verstappen’s as bodywork damage resulted in him falling prey to Hulkenberg and Alonso.
The German dismissed suggestions that age played a role in Verstappen’s mistakes. He said, “He has done enough races. But again, this can also happen if you’ve done 300 races. Inside the car, you mustn’t forget that the judgements are very difficult to make but you have to ultimately have these things in mind and make sure you don’t crash.
“I mean he could have easily taken his front wing off, get a puncture, whatever, then it’s game over for both of us. In that case, obviously, we were both a bit lucky. It’s just how it goes.”