Verstappen handed reprimand for Japanese GP qualifying incident with Norris but holds onto pole
Max Verstappen has avoided a grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix after being investigated over an incident with Lando Norris in qualifying – the stewards instead opting to hand the Dutchman a reprimand.
Verstappen and Norris almost collided while conducting out-laps in the decisive Q3 phase at Suzuka, with the Red Bull darting to the left when it accelerated away from 130R as the McLaren approached at speed.
Norris was forced to take avoiding action by running over the grass, while Verstappen gathered up his car and continued. Both drivers saw out the session, with Verstappen taking pole position and Norris claiming P10.
After meeting with Verstappen, Norris, team representatives and reviewing video and timing evidence, the stewards published their verdict and explanation, also noting the presence of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari.
The stewards shared Norris’s description of the incident as being “unfortunate”, with Verstappen determined to have “temporarily lost control” of his car – leading to the aforementioned “snap” to the left.
“The driver of car 1 (Verstappen) was aware of car 55 (Sainz) in front and car 4 (Norris) approaching from behind and decided to accelerate at precisely the same time as car 4 decided to overtake car 1,” read the stewards’ report.
“Unfortunately, due to lack of tyre temperature on car 1, the driver temporarily lost control of the car causing it to ‘snap’ anti-clockwise.
“The driver of car 4 stated that this was simply an unfortunate incident, however it is the driver’s responsibility to at all times maintain control of their car.
“Regarding penalty, all previous breaches of this nature have resulted in a reprimand, hence a similar penalty is imposed in this case.”
The lack of grid penalty will boost Verstappen’s chances of taking his second World Championship in Sunday’s race – victory and fastest lap ensuring that he claims the title ahead of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez no matter where his rivals finish.