Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Bird unhappy Formula E was used for Verstappen’s ‘public service’

Formula E

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Making Max Verstappen perform his ‘public service’ punishment at a Formula E event sends the wrong message about the championship, according to Sam Bird.

The Virgin racer, who started today’s Marrakech Eprix from pole position, said he hadn’t met with Verstappen, who spent the day alongside the FIA’s stewarding team. Verstappen was ordered to participate in the exercise as punishment for repeatedly shoving Esteban Ocon during last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Bird took issue with the ruling. “I mean, to call coming to Formula E race ‘community service’ I think does Formula E a bit of an injustice,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.
It shouldn’t be a punishment to come here.

“I hope he enjoyed it and I hope he will give good feedback to some of his colleagues,” Bird added.

Verstappen, who incurred more penalties for driving infringements than any of his rivals last year and criticised several decisions which went against him, said the time he spent with the stewards was useful.

Sam Bird, Virgin, Marrakech, Formula E, 2019
Bird: “It shouldn’t be a punishment to come here.”
“It’s interesting to see it from the other side,” said the Red Bull driver in a statement released by the FIA. “Normally you can’t spend an entire day with the stewards.

“Everybody does their own job during the weekend, and it’s good to really see what it takes to make these important decisions. Sometimes a decision might not be nice for a certain person but it has to be taken and you have to follow the rules. I think it’s good to experience different things in racing rather than just sitting in the car – to be here and do this kind of work has been a constructive thing for me.”

Verstappen said he had a positive first impression of the championship. “I’ve of course followed Formula E a bit on TV but I’ve never been in the paddock, and I really enjoyed the day.

“First of all it was a really exciting race. The championship is clearly growing and there are a lot of manufacturers here, so I think it’s a cool series.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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59 comments on “Bird unhappy Formula E was used for Verstappen’s ‘public service’”

  1. I think this punishment might even benefit Verstappen in the long term. He has another day to go, but good on the FIA for actually injecting some insight rather than bitterness in a drivers head after an offence.

    1. And if that is the case, then arguably, it might indeed have been exactly the right punishment for him @me4me

      Even if the message it seemed to send might look a bit muddled in general, I am all for effective over harsh but useless. In the end, the most important thing is, to me, that he learns and improves.

    2. Yes. Verstappen could now argue that bumping his car to rivals are normal in other series…

  2. Jokes aside, I think too many people are concentrating on the fact that it’s formula e when it could be any series Verstappen went to. The key thing is he was with the marshals.

    1. But that does not create headlines ;)

    2. Being with the marshals is hardly community service.

      1. Exactly, being with the officials is what he should have been penalized with when he earlier spoke badly about the officials after his earlier deserved penalties.

  3. I’d be happy to take this punishment. I bet he didn’t have to pay for any expenses either. I’d be getting into more fights if I were him…

    1. Ironically that’s probably the only downside Max got from this – the flights wouldn’t have been paid for (unless this is another broken precedent here).

  4. I disagree with him. TBH, I don’t really get his point.

  5. The worst part is Verstappen’s press release written by Formula E themselves…

  6. So now I have to take back what I said that Formula E wasn’t full of F1 refugees :))

  7. Where other drivers get real penalties, this F1-pet gets a chance to get inside knowledge, have a beautiful city trip with nice sunny weather to go with, a taste of the delicious home cuisine, have front seats for a fantastic race on the fastest track, see 2 of his countrymen come 1st and 2nd, all expenses paid. We already knew what kind of ‘punishment’ he’d receive back when it was issued in Brazil, but they have actually managed to top it. What a joke.

    1. Yup. What a joke.

    2. The joke is the fact a punishmeny was given at all…

      1. Worse punishments are given for lesser examples of trackside violence in F3. Ask Nikita Mazepin.

  8. Very harsh punishment to have to go to this terrible series. Good job he didnt knock Ocon out or they would of made him drive one of these milk floats.

  9. I think they just found their new strapline.
    “Formula E: It shouldn’t be a punishment to come here”

    1. Good one!

  10. Bird is mistaking punishment with demotion, Verstappen is still a top driver in F1.

  11. What a whinge, who is Sam Bird anyway?

    1. This says far more about you than it does about Sam Bird

    2. Maybe you should try reading Wikipedia before opening your mouth and making dumb comments .. 32 starts in WEC since 2104 with 8 wins, 12 pole positions and winning the WEC in 2015 plus numerous pole positions and wins in other categories …… what have you won apart from dummy of the week.

      1. @foggy And when you put your foot in it at RF, there’s no going back and editing or deleting your comment.

      2. Sam Bird is a timetravler? 32 starts in WEC since 2104. Can he tell us what engines they use in 2104 and if between now and then will McLaren get on the F1 podium at least once.

      3. Sorry for the typo, I obviously meant 2014

  12. If Formula GP is ePrix wouldn’t they should be in eSport?

  13. It’s all very well making him spend time with the stewards but is it really a punishment or community service?

    Maybe they should make him stay behind and sweep the grandstands, or help clean out the local canal.

  14. Too much (toxic) hate for Formula E on this website…unsure why. Keith may as well not post anything about FE.

    Yes, it is/will be slower than F1 for obvious reasons. Doesn’t mean it isn’t racing.
    Its only in its fifth season. The only way is up. I think we should give it some time.

    1. I think FE is currently seen as a bit 2nd rate, amateurish and gimmicky. In the same way that DRS, “ready to rumble”, or McLaren are criticised in F1.
      Other racing series, like F3, are also slower than F1 but are respected for the purity of racing. FE is still a newbie and a bit of a try-hard but is demanding equal pegging with F1 (or claiming it will replace F1). I think that is why it annoys some people. If they cut back on the razzledazzle and let it grow organically as a pure racing series I think “old-school” fans would give it more respect.

      1. So if Formula E didn’t market itself, more people would like it? This is an interesting marketing strategy.

        1. Marketing is one thing. But it needs to be proportional to the cause. The slow on-track racing is secondary to the fast and gratuitous ‘event’ promotion with fan ‘engagement’ gimmicks.

          FE is another spec series, one that is technologically unable to race on actual racing circuits. Energy density of current battery tech limits speed and range. If FE permitted bespoke designs and eliminated the gimmicks, I’d be more inclined to take it seriously as a racing series.

          More speed, less fluff please.

          1. FE is FE. It is what it is, and it is evolving. Not every racing series needs to be F1 to be a legitimate form of motorsport. You are entitled to prefer F1 over other forms of auto racing, but let’s not simply dismiss any series that uses spec cars, especially when F1 uses so many spec parts itself, and uses spec parts for the same reason other series have spec cars, namely, reducing costs. There are only three F1 teams that build their own power units. All of the other teams by spec power units. How many teams mike their own brake components? Or engine management computer? What’s the biggest spec part in F1? The tires. F1 teams used to be able to buy whatever tires they wanted and even have tires designed specifically for their car as Tyrrell did. Spec or not-spec is more of a spectrum than an “is or isn’t” thing.

    2. Serious question, how ‘fast’ is it, to compare, do any other series race on the tracks?
      @I’ve adopted a live and let live position regarding FE, thought it was pretty cool watching a race in the dead of winter here.
      As for Max, a week on bread and water breaking rocks in a quarry would have been appropriate for such a naughty boy. :)

    3. “Its only in its fifth season. The only way is up. I think we should give it some time.”
      Most things in life and/or commerce if, after four years, have not taken the world by storm (Betamax, anybody… ;-) might be regarded as a failure – and not need more time. Anything can also go down (although I think this is unlikely here…).
      Just let it develop at its own pace, instead of everyone involved in FE feeling they have to defend it all the time – as if it’s written into all contracts of everybody involved in the sport. Do drivers get a bonus every time they speak positively about their sport…?
      If there wasn’t all the incessant PR nonsense there would be nothing for detractors to comment on.
      Is that “toxic” enough for you…? ;-)

  15. Ah, but don’t you see? The REAL punishment was making him say how exciting it was for the press release.

  16. I think too many people read “public service” as punishment.

    For the FIA public service is doing something good for a FIA event, like Vettel did two years ago doing educational services in F2 and F3 after his incident in Baku with Hamilton.

    Verstappen doing public service at this FIA event with the stewards is probably beneficial for both of them. The Formula E gets more publicity and Verstappen gets to know and respect how the stewards work.

    1. Agreed!
      The best description and an solid view, its a pity Bird was asked the wrong questions looking at the answer

      Bird took issue with the ruling. “I mean, to call coming to Formula E race ‘community service’ I think does Formula E a bit of an injustice,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.
      It shouldn’t be a punishment to come here.

    2. Do you really think MV will learn from this … I don’t, this is just another trackside day out to him.

    3. If people read “community service” as a punishment, that’s because it’s supposed to be one. That’s why it’s listed as a penalty – and why making someone an observer steward has never previously been allowed as an example of it.

  17. Lol, I would do an infrigement aswell to join this public service penalty.

    1. You do know that you can just volunteer to be a marshal right?

      1. You can, but you can’t just volunteer for the role Max took. You have to earn your stripes being in marshalling roles for a while before being allowed to steward. After this, you have to steward at national events for a while before being able to observe international events. After enough of those and some other training, it’s possible to steward internationally. Only then is it possible to apply for the position Max took – and it’s a prerequisite for stewarding in F1, FE, WEC or other world-class circuit series to observe that level in action first.

        Hence Max got a priviledge, not a punishment.

  18. I just think Bird could have put a positive spin on this rather than instilling a negative thought about it. He could have said “it is an honour to have Max learn more about the position stewards are in in making decisions, by coming to our growing and exciting series FE”…something like that. That he chose to remind people this was supposed to be a punishment for him rather than a learning experience, is unfortunate. I didn’t think it was a punishment to go to this FE event until Bird suggested it. I merely thought it was Max doing something constructive and quite relatable to his experiences last year, not just with the Ocon incident but for other ragged times he had earlier in the season, to learn more about what the stewards have to consider when a driver treads a fine line between hard racing and overdriving.

    1. Are you serious?

      Honestly Robbie – he was supposed to be punished for a transgression. Not get a holiday with people all around the world who are paid nothing at all for the work they do.
      Your Defense of MV is a little beyond here. I am amazed a lot more drivers let alone stewards were not more vocal about this.

      1. +100 …. no way can this be considered punishment for his bully boy behaviour.

      2. @drg Are you serious? What kind of ‘punishment’ did you ever think he was going to get when it was Ocon that was the bully on the track who then goaded Max further afterwards, and for which Max was given two days of commmity service. Exactly what draconian thing do you think they were going to do to teach Max a lesson? Your desire to see him punished is a little beyond here. The drivers and stewards probably couldn’t care less. Half of them probably think Ocon should have had to do a few days community service too. He was the penalized one, and should have apologized to Max immediately upon seeing him, rather than pushing his buttons even further. This is schoolyard stuff, not criminal behaviour we’re talking about.

    2. I’m glad someone other than me remembered that Max was supposed to be getting a penalty for his actions, per the FIA’s own words (community service is classed as a penalty under the International Sporting Code). It doesn’t even sound like Max has been expected to learn much, rather according to Dieter, the stewards were listening to him and “taking things on board”…

      The FIA usually sends people to assist in road safety initiatives. Those are actual community service penalties, because they’re boosting rather than pulling down fellow members of their community by doing it, as well as boosting the overt goals of the FIA rather than arguably damaging them (by taking the place away from a trainee top-level steward and the FIA – the governor of said officials, lest we forget – implying that the actions they do as part of their training should be seen in a negative light). Also, the only person who ever found the road safety initiatives anything other than a punishment was Michael Schumacher – and due to the aforementioned reasons, even his unexpected enthusiasm was to the FIA’s, motorsport’s and road safety’s benefit alike.

  19. I’m reminded of Kramer, AFAIR wearing a orange jumpsuit, picking up trash by a freeway….

  20. Cristiano Ferreira
    13th January 2019, 16:46

    Formula E is pathetic and the message is quite clear: You have to go to crap places to serve your punishment.

    Even feeder series like GP2 and GP3 (and others) are thousand miles better than this crap.

    1. In your very humble opinion, there are some very well known names in this series and you are insulting some very talented racing drivers …. I don’t particularly like the series but I don’t find it necessary to insult those that do.

      1. I thought Cristiano’s comment/“insult” was aimed at FE, not the drivers… ;-)

        1. Cristiano Ferreira
          14th January 2019, 4:15

          Yes it is directed most at FE as a “series” but some drivers are bad too (and i dont mind because even F1 has its share of bad drivers).

      2. Cristiano Ferreira
        14th January 2019, 4:19

        @foggy i’m not insulting anyone who enjoys FE, after all we all have our tastes (some good, some bad). I’m only stating what FE feels to me right now.

        1. Accept that and I meant no offence, as I said I don’t particularly like the series either and as for those who think it will replace F1 …. I certainly hope not.

  21. So after the punishment Max, RedBull and Fia understand each other better. Couple of talks about how to improve F1, some dinners, a drink, a laugh and a handshake. Diplomacy on his best. I cannot wait to the new season.

  22. Exactly, being with the officials is what he should have been penalized with when he earlier spoke badly about the officials after his earlier deserved penalties.

  23. Considering observation at a top-level race is one of the requirements to be a FIA steward at a top-level race, getting sent to FE Marrakech to observe is a reward in disguise. As such, I regard it as failing to fit either word in the term “community punishment” – it was one less space for an aspiring top steward (thus anti-community), and it is training rather than a punishment.

    I am more than disappointed that the FIA has chosen to communicate that paddock violence in F1 should be rewarded in fact and only punished in name. This has set another bad precedent and shown more apparent favouritism.

Comments are closed.