Verstappen gives his view on controversial Hamilton incidents, as he says it ‘wasn’t worth fighting’ after mid-race penalty
Amid a heated battle with Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia, Max Verstappen ended up second-best – a result that puts the two title fighters level going to the finale. But the Red Bull driver said he didn’t think it worth battling Hamilton after receiving a five-second penalty in the race, as he gave his take on the Turn 27 incident that saw him rear-ended by the Mercedes driver.
Verstappen crashed in qualifying and started the inaugural Jeddah race in P3, but was thrust into the lead after staying out during the first Safety Car and choosing to switch tyres in the resulting red-flag stoppage.
He held on to that lead until Lap 44 – previously sweeping past Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton on the second race restart with a terrific move (below) – but received a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining advantage at Turn 1 prior to Hamilton’s move. The Dutchman said the penalty effectively prevented him from challenging for the win.
“When they told me that I had the five-second penalty, it was not worth fighting anymore because I would never pull a gap of five seconds,” said the championship leader. “So yes, a lot of action, a lot of things that happened. I think ultimately, we didn’t really have perfect pace in the race, maybe also the medium tyres were not amazing to the end. I think the hard tyres [of Hamilton] had a bit more life in them I think, but as always, it’s easy to say afterwards.
“At the end, that five-second penalty I don’t think is correct but at the end of the day I don’t want to talk about it that much because they don’t deserve any words coming out of my mouth.
“I find it interesting that I am the one who gets a penalty when both of us ran out of the white lines,” he added. “In Brazil it was fine but suddenly I get a penalty for it; you could see both of us didn’t make the corner. But it’s fine, I also don’t really spend too much time on it. We have to move forward.”
There were numerous flashpoints in the race and both championship protagonists have been summoned to the stewards for an incident at Turn 27, which saw Verstappen slow to give P1 to Hamilton – while Hamilton was seemingly caught unaware and mistakenly rear-ended the Red Bull.
Verstappen explained his side of the story: “They told me to give the position back, and so immediately when I heard that on the radio I just pulled off to the right, showing that I was going to move over, and I braked, downshifted, and he just stayed behind me – so I was just looking in the mirror and I’m slowing down and I think there was a bit of a miscommunication and he ran into the back of me.”
Having taken 18 points to Hamilton’s 26 in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen goes into the season finale level on points with the seven-time champion – but ahead by virtue of having won more races this season. The Driver of The Day said he was ‘excited’ that the title is going down to the wire.
“We are equal on points now, and I think that’s really exciting of course for the whole championship and Formula 1 in general… Yes, it will be decided there, so hopefully we have a good weekend, so let’s see,” surmised Verstappen.