Charlie Whiting, FIA, Hockenheimring, 2016

Whiting defends ‘absolutely clear’ Verstappen penalty decision

2017 United States Grand Prix

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting has dismissed claims of inconsistency in stewards applying track limit rules in the wake of the Max Verstappen penalty at the United States Grand Prix.

Speaking to the media in Mexico City during an extraordinary FIA press conference, Whiting discussed the rationale behind why Max Verstappen received a five-second post-race time penalty for ‘gaining a lasting advantage’.

“The point here really is that the stewards felt that he [Verstappen] had gained an advantage, he had shortened the track, clearly he was off the track and he passed another driver at the same time,” explained Whiting.

“So I think for them the decision was quite simple, technically, but emotionally it wasn’t so easy. Because the decision had to be made quite quickly.”

Whiting used video footage from both qualifying and the race in Austin as evidence to refute claims of inconsistency between the Verstappen incident and other drivers exceeding track limits.

“What I told a lot of the teams and drivers prior to qualifying was what policy we would adopt there. I said that ‘unless it’s obvious that a driver has gained an advantage, we would not do anything’,” said Whiting. “We know that drivers will go off the track from time to time, but it’s not always an advantage to do so.

“All in all, I think the accusations of inconsistency are pretty much without foundation. I think the only time it was absolutely clear that a driver gained an advantage, the driver was duly penalised. That is where we’re coming from.”

2017 United States Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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Posted on Categories 2017 F1 season, 2017 United States Grand Prix

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  • 21 comments on “Whiting defends ‘absolutely clear’ Verstappen penalty decision”

    1. The first, and most important, requirement is that the rules be crystal clear. Ad hoc qualifications like ‘unless it’s obvious’ are simply not good enough, and Whiting needs to acknowledge that. Yes, Max gained a place by cutting a corner, and letting that stand would have caused up a host of problems. But the stewards opened themselves up to that as soon as they gave up on providing clear instructions on the issue of track limits. It’s a tricky problem, but people like Whiting aren’t being paid peanuts, and he needs to do his job properly.

      1. USA F1 Steward Garry Connelly has a host of previous bad blood & decisions with Max Verstappen.

      2. @charleski well said. It’s amateur hour.

        I’m glad this happens now. It means the FIA will be under pressure to professionalize. Without Berny there to cover their asses, they will need to change.

    2. I liked Christian Horner’s comments (Sky pre-quali) “put some gravel there, and the drivers won’t go off the track.” Best piece of common sense I’ve heard in a long time from someone who probably has some influence over the over-regulation and potential (not proven) inconsistency of the FIA, stewards, etc.

      1. Gravel and Grass can play a part by leading cause for in a catastrophic accident (you can find a lot of accident footage on YouTube). The longer run-off area is expected to avoid those situations. Honestly, drivers are smart enough to know what limits are and where to stop themselves. If they did not, then they deserve a penalty which the stewards should and will apply. Max in all probability in that situation may not even have realized that he cut a corner.

        I am not saying I agree with stewards decision every time and that I trust them blindly.

      2. agreed but, didn’t we decide Gravel traps were a huge maintenance issue? Natural penalties for “out of bounds” would definitely eliminate judgement calls and I think it is the best solution. According to Matchett on the FP1 broadcast last night, there is a report from a competition committee with this very suggestion sitting on Charlie Whiting’s desk for the past 6 months!

    3. I cannot believe, that on this website, normally home to sound and knowledgeable minds on racing, that we are STILL accusing the stewards of getting this wrong. Or being inconsistent. Or being unclear.

      It’s ridiculous. I love Max’s driving as much as the next guy, but he got it wrong. The stewards punished, as they ALWAYS will, if you cheat by trying to shorten or straighten the track.

      1. @gongtong
        Yeah, the problem with this ‘controversy’ is the participation of one side that doesn’t want to understand.
        According to them, Verstappen hasn’t done anything that all other drivers haven’t done, and the real story is the unprovoked and unconditional hate of a single steward that most of us never really took note of.
        There exists no argument that could appease that side, because it’s not about facts but all about feelings.

        1. Exactly @nase – this constant comparison that others could do it and VER could not is not winning any games here than just create controversy. There are a few fans who are upset, few F1 fans who are always upset with stewards and others who just read one side of the story and felt gutted but did not bother to see the truth for themselves.

          1. Giving a penalty it’s important the breach of the rules is intentionally. It was obvious not ! Look at the onboard from VER and you see he is choosing the open door Kimi left. He could have passed Kimi completely legally.
            Only when Kimi noticed VER he moved to the right a little.. VER reacted and left the track to avoid contact. No intent there to cut the corner.
            But, no hearing by the party’s involved results in bad decisions.

            1. @ erikje

              Giving a penalty it’s important the breach of the rules is intentionally.

              That is not correct.

      2. @gongtong Yet, Vettel overtook Hamilton going off track and he wasn’t penalized.

        Or remember when Verstappen’s overtake on Nasr was heralded as the greatest overtake of the season by the FIA? He went well off track for that one. Great overtake or illegal, which is it? This overtake on Raikkonen could very well have ended up on that same list, because it was great. Drivers don’t really hit that apex at all so there was no advantage other than making it possible to take the position..

        Or you want to pretend drivers don’t get penalized when they overtake on the outside off track? Go back to Hockenheim where Vettel got penalized for just that and someone got the same for doing this in Hungary. Or atl east was ordered to give th position back.

        Or how about drivers missing the corner while defending? Not usually an issue, but Verstappen got a penalty for that last year. While Rosberg did the exact same thing, twice in the same race in Canada, and got nothing.

        You can pretend there is no inconsistency at all, but there really is and it’s incredibly annoying.

        1. @patrickl

          Yet, Vettel overtook Hamilton going off track and he wasn’t penalized.

          You mean the start in Austin? That move was over and done before he came anywhere near the track limits. Vettel did leave the track, but that only proves how poorly the track is designed, with the ideal line running outside of the track limits in most corners.

          Or remember when Verstappen’s overtake on Nasr was heralded as the greatest overtake of the season by the FIA?

          That one should’ve indeed been penalised in my opinion.

          Or you want to pretend drivers don’t get penalized when they overtake on the outside off track?

          I don’t think anybody really does that.

          Or how about drivers missing the corner while defending? Not usually an issue, but Verstappen got a penalty for that last year.

          That’s always a tricky one. I very much disagreed with the FIA’s handling of the incident as well. Hamilton got away with doing the exact same thing in the same race, with his closest opponents much closer to him than Vettel was to Verstappen. Penalising Verstappen, but letting Hamilton get away with it made no sense to me.

          You can pretend there is no inconsistency at all, but there really is and it’s incredibly annoying.

          Again, nobody really does that. I think everybody acknowledges that the current stewarding system does a terrible job at making consistent rulings based on sensible principles.
          But the decisions made in Austin were consistent. And I think you’d be hard pressed to find an example for a driver being allowed to overtake while cutting a corner. That’s obviously not okay.

          1. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve tried to send this post, with the system telling me I should stop trying to post comments so quickly, or that my comment is a duplicate …

      3. Verstappen should have been penalised. But I dont think thats what people are arguing here. Its the un-clear rule of ‘The driver must have gained a lasting advantage’ which is unclear and undefined. Bottas left the track twice fighting both the Redbulls at various points in the race. He was ahead before the inncident, came under attack, left the track on the outside, rejoined and maintained his position. I would argue that he left the track and gained a lasting advantage didnt he? More so in the battle with Riccardo but still. If there had been something on the outside of the circuit to slow him down he wouldnt have maintained that position. And this is where the stewards leave themselves open to secrutiny in my opionion. If you leave the track you must pay a penalty by being slowed down in some way. End of. It doesnt matter if your fighting another car or not. Clear defined penaltys for exceding track limits regardless of circumstance is the only way to stop this happening again in the future…

    4. We’re still talking about this? It’s too bad the championship has sort of sputtered out, leaving this as the only thing going for people to flap their jaws about.

    5. Sorry, but this is so open to interpretation: “We know that drivers will go off the track from time to time, but it’s not always an advantage to do so.”
      If this is a literal quote, then he interprets it differently from what, afaik, is the rule. Going off track to gain an advantage (like a position in overtaking) is different from being an advantage (shorter driving lines). I could be wrong though.
      I’m still of the opinion that Verstappen’s penalty was correct, but inconsistent.

    6. I’m no fan of Charlie Whiting and how he controls races (too much gray for my liking), but it’s ridiculous that this press conference has to be held to appease a bunch of Verstappen fans who were all riled up by Jos and Max.

      It’s plain as day that Max cut the corner, gained a place, and should have been penalised. A true professional would have coped it on the chin and moved on. Max’s behaviour post penalty calling an official a retard should have resulted in some extra penalty points, and Jos should be banned from the circuits for his comments on Dutch TV and Twitter.

      Until Max gets his emotions under control he will never have the mental fortitude to be World Champion

    7. I’m trying hard to think of another sport that uses whites lines as ‘guidance’ to the limits of the playing area.
      As far as I’m aware all other sports have a clear-cut definition of how the edges of the allowable playing area are defined and a clearly defined rule as to what’s ‘in or ‘out’.
      Can you imagine a football match where the referee decides whether a ball is in or out based on ‘gaining a clear advantage’ rather than ‘has the ball crossed the line or not’.
      Or downhill slalom where you need have both ski’s on the inside of the marker, put a ski the other side and you’re out.
      Or the many other sports that use white lines, I can’t think of one where there isn’t a very clear ‘in-or-out’ rule.
      In sports car racing if you exceed the track limits you get a time penalty. Do it again and you get a longer time penalty.
      These are supposed to be some of the best drivers in the world, they could all drive within the white lines if they wanted to.
      Bring in a rule similar to sports car racing – Keep within the white lines or receive a time penalty.

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