Sebastian Vettel penalty: Max Verstappen says it is wrong to blame officials

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Hamilton and Vettel
Vettel made the mistake on lap 48 at the Canadian Grand Prix while under pressure from Hamilton

Max Verstappen has defended race stewards after they received abuse on social media for issuing a penalty that cost Sebastian Vettel victory in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Vettel's five-second penalty elevated Lewis Hamilton to first place.

Red Bull driver Verstappen said race stewards were just applying the rules.

"At the end of the day, they are trying to do their job in the best way; it's not fair to say they did a bad job," the Dutchman said.

Verstappen, who has been involved in a number of controversies over driving standards during his career, said he believed that sometimes the stewards "don't even want to" give penalties "but they have to".

"The stewards do realise what is happening but sometimes they can't give another penalty because it's written in the rule book exactly like that," he said.

Vettel was given the punishment for returning to the track "in an unsafe manner" and "forcing [Hamilton] off the track".

"I read a few comments that some stewards got some bad language messages on Twitter and stuff, which I think is not fair," Verstappen said.

But he added: "It's good to look at the rule book, what we can change or take out."

Vettel's Ferrari team have exercised a right to an incident review, which will be heard at 14:30 BST on Friday, at the French Grand Prix.

Force India's Esteban Ocon, left, and Red Bull's Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen was leading the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2018 when Force India's Esteban Ocon collided with the Dutchman

Verstappen said F1 should consider revising the rules - and that he did not believe Vettel's actions in Canada should be deemed worthy of a penalty.

"He [Vettel] did everything he could to do it in a safe way," Verstappen said. "You go off in the lead, you know Lewis is behind by only a second and a half, so you stay on throttle and you're managing [the car].

"Lewis saw him go off. When he goes through the left, he knows Seb is going to come back on and of course he's going to drift wide, and he had to back off. If I had been Lewis, I would have been on the radio as well saying he blocked me. You know it's in the rules and there's a possible penalty.

"Of course, when you look back at it, the first mistake that happened was that Seb went off the track. But then I think when he rejoined he didn't do anything. He was not on purpose blocking Lewis.

"So I think why they gave him the penalty was wrong.

"In general, if you are going to give penalties like that then, why don't you just put a wall there? Then if you make a mistake, you are in the wall then the race is over for you."

Verstappen, who was forced to spend a day with the stewards at the Formula E race in Marrakech in January as punishment for pushing Esteban Ocon after last November's Brazilian Grand Prix, added: "I'm not a big fan of penalties, anyway. I've had them myself many times."

Vettel's view

Vettel said he had not changed his view of the incident since Canada, when he said he did not believe he could have done anything differently, and that he had not deliberately impeded Hamilton.

He said Ferrari wanted the hearing "to open the case again and have another look. We bring some information that maybe the stewards didn't have at the time and we see what happens".

Vettel was asked whether he was concerned about the fact that the cause of the incident was another mistake he had made under pressure, the latest in a series over the past 12 months.

He said: "It's not great. I tried everything to stay on track. I was under pressure. I was pushing as hard as I could.

"If Lewis was ahead he would have controlled his pace and done like the other six races.

"We weren't easy to pass because we had the advantage down on the straights. Lewis made some mistakes in the hairpin. Every time he was a bit closer. So you can argue, I did the mistake in the wrong place.

"If I had done it at the hairpin, I would have just lost a bit of time. There I lost a bit more time because I had to go across the track."

What is the hearing about?

At Friday's hearing, officials will consider if Ferrari has "significant and relevant" new evidence.

If they judge that Ferrari's submission meets that standard, stewards will then consider whether that justifies overturning the penalty.

The stewards in Canada concluded that Hamilton had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The penalty dropped Vettel behind Hamilton in the results and the Briton was declared the winner.

The F1 sporting code says: "Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited.

"Should a car leave the track for any reason... the driver may rejoin.

However, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any advantage."