Stripping Verstappen of 2017 US podium was “one of the toughest decisions” – steward

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An FIA steward who backed a decision to strip Max Verstappen of a podium finish in 2017 has described it as “one of the toughest” calls he had to take.

Garry Connelly, who was part of a four-man panel which penalised Verstappen for a pass on Kimi Raikkonen at the 2017 United States Grand Prix, described how the decision was taken at the FIA International Stewards Programme today.

Verstappen passed Raikkonen at turn 16 on the final lap of the race in what Connelly described as “an amazing move”. It moved the Red Bull driver into third place at the end of the race.

But one of Connelly’s fellow stewards, former Formula 1 driver Mika Salo, noticed Verstappen had put all four wheels outside of the track limits while completing the pass.

“We had Mika Salo as our drivers steward and Mika’s extremely quick on seeing what’s going on on a race track,” Connelly explained. “He said to us immediately ‘that was a brilliant move by Max but he was off the track by about a metre on the inside of the corner – he left the track to overtake’.

“We went back and looked at the video and it was very, very clear. It was very, very clear within a minute of us looking at that. And my fellow stewards in the room – Radovan Novak, Mika Salo and Dennis Dean – it was a difficult decision because we had to pull Max Verstappen off third place, off the podium and replace him with Kimi Raikkonen.”

Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty which dropped him from third to fourth place in the final classification. The decision was rendered quickly enough that Raikkonen was able to take Verstappen’s place in the post-race podium ceremony.

The decision prompted an angry reaction from the team. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner called it “appalling”, while Verstappen lashed out at “one idiot steward up there who always makes the decision against me.”

“Boy did we cop a lot of criticism,” Connelly recalled. “We were public enemies number one in the Netherlands and all the Red Bull fans around the world were up in arms and a lot of other people as well.”

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Connelly defended the decision, pointing out it would have been unfair towards Raikkonen to let Verstappen’s move stand.

“We also looked at it from another perspective in that another driver had been robbed of his rightful position because Max couldn’t have overtaken Kimi if he’d complied with the rules. The rules are simple, you cannot go off the track to overtake someone, you can’t leave the track and gain an advantage, and this was a lasting advantage. He went from fourth to third by overtaking one metre off the track.

“So when it comes to a difficult decision, yes you feel sorry for the person that you may have to penalise, but you also have to think about the other competitors that are affected by the move or by the action of the competitor that you are investigating. So I that’s something that really sticks with me.”

Despite his vehement initial criticism of the decision, Verstappen later admitted the pass was “not correct”.

“That was really probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to take with my colleagues,” said Connelly. “But it’s something that I still believe we did the right thing, we took the right decision.

“And I’m pretty sure if you speak to Max Verstappen today, he’ll agree that in retrospect it was the right decision.”

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60 comments on “Stripping Verstappen of 2017 US podium was “one of the toughest decisions” – steward”

  1. Shouldn’t have been a tough decision at all – it was very clear it wasn’t a valid move. Should make no difference whether it happened for the podium, the win, or 14th place.

    1. @tflb the extreme hostility that was shown towards the stewards from a certain type of fan shows why they might have found it to be a tough decision.

      He is right that there was a level of abuse directed at him that was very aggressive – Max himself directing more than a few blasts of personal invective (he also called Connelly “a complete mongol” in other interviews he gave at the time) – and there were quite a few articles written attacking Connelly on a quite personal level, along with some rather malicious “fake news” being printed to try and make Connelly look more anti-Verstappen in an effort to destroy his reputation and get him fired.

      When Connelly mentions being “public enemies” in the Netherlands, that is not exactly an exaggeration either – Salo has confirmed that there were enough death threats made against him and the other stewards that the police ended up investigating, particularly as there were a lot of threats to attack the families of those stewards.

      1. “….the extreme hostility that was shown towards the stewards from a certain type of fan….”
        certain type of fans = Max-nazis, they are part of the 4th reich under the command of their beloved führer Verstappen

    2. “it was very clear it wasn’t a valid move”

      In a weekend where basically every other driver gained an advantage by going off-track, either in the race or in quali, it was a perfectly reasonable move and as of todat this still stands as a joke of a decision!

      And it became clear Charlie Whiting was losing his marbles, because even after Lewis and Seb tried to explain that, while going of-track in turn x made that turn a bit slower, you gained a clear advantage in turn y, he refused to proper police the situation.

      1. I find Verstappen not being penalised for his move on Magnussen in Mexico 2019 more of a joke decision. One where he was penalised for overtaking another driver while blatantly shortening the track and getting all 4 wheels off track at the same time is very clear and deserved.

      2. @oconomo The reason no other off-track excursion led to a penalty that weekend was that those cases didn’t lead to a lasting advantage, which FIA measured via mini-sector times between any given two consecutive light panels.
        @xenn1 I agree. He 100% overtook Magnussen off-track after T5 and yet no action from the Stewards of that race. He would’ve passed the Haas sooner rather than later anyway, so he didn’t have any reason to risk getting a penalty by giving even the slightest chance for the FIA to take action. Regarding off-track passing moves that didn’t receive a penalty: Alonso passed Vergne outside the track limits at the exit of T3 in the 2013 Abu Dhabi GP, but nothing. He would’ve passed JEV’s Toro Rosso very soon anyway as he had just rejoined from the pit lane with a fresh set, so no point in risking anything in this case either.

    3. Not a tough decision at all……..excellent move

    4. There are other Stewards’ decisions that annoy me, but this isn’t one of them. Fundamentally Max should have stayed on the track.

      1. The problem was that while that section of the track is officially listed as a corner, the drivers go though it at full throttle; it is more like a bent straight.

        Verstappen had overspeed compared to Räikkönen and while he moved to the inside of Kimi, he had ample room to make the corner without cutting the apex.
        But then Kimi suddenly changed direction towards the apex, less than a second before coming to the apex. One fraction later Max moved in also to avoid a collision. At the same moment though Kimi stopped moving in; it was a dummy.

        Had Max not reacted to Kimi’s swipe then he would have made the corner and collected his podium. But only because Kimi did not complete the move, otherwise they would have hit each other.
        Max simply did not have the opportunity to wait and see what Kimi would end op doing; he moved out of the way.

        While Max had a slightly shorter trajectory he also rubbed some speed by hitting the kerb; he would have been faster still if he had not reacted to the late swipe.

        I am fairly disappointed that the stewards have not commented on Kimi’s move because it is the only reason why Max did cut that corner.

        1. We could argue the stewards decision, but overall it was the terrible inconsistency that made a hard pill to swallow…

          If I remember correct both Hamilton and Wehrlein set their fastest lap during quali cutting the track, no penalties there. During the race Sainz cut the same corner..again no penalties. What to think about Bottas versus Ricciardo, Bottas did not cut a corner, but used half of Texas to stay ahead of Ricciardo.

          The onboard footage from Verstappens car show he got on the red stuff, they also show he’s avoiding Raikkonen coming towards him.

    5. It is tough because of the aftermath. Easy call on the rational side, you can’t cut a corner let alone cut a corner to overtake someone.

  2. It was a fair decision. If F1 introduced a system siilar to the VAR, it would have done the same thing at the same time.

    1. No, it wasn’t, given the fact that many drivers gained an advantage going off-track, in quali and the race, while not getting penalized.

      One of the most ignorant and unfair decisions in the history of this sport.

      1. There are few black and white decisions but passing another car off track after the first lap is one of them.
        Regardless how many other drivers might have left the track to gain an advantage. Because that’s an other matter and definitely not black and white :)

      2. You can’t change my opinion on this and Baku 2018.

      3. And this, right here, is exactly the sort of supposed “fan” who took it into their heads to threaten to kill the stewards and run an intimidation campaign.

        1. Are you accusing Oconomo of threatening a steward? Or are you referring to yourself?

          1. Bart, Oconomo was screaming pretty nasty abuse at the stewards at the time and still nurses a considerable grudge against them now.

          2. Also to note that he defends Max and Helmut Marko.

    2. If you can’t understand the difference between going wider and gaining half a tenth or effectively cutting the track and gaining a position as a result… I guess no point in discussing.

      1. Kimi started to back off at that moment Max cut the corner. So you’re opposing a VAR in F1?

        1. I actually agreed with you and meant to reply to Oconomo.

          1. Oh, OK. Thought you said that to me.

      2. Agree with tim and oconomo, although the 2nd person I mentioned didn’t specify my point: since the first time I saw this, I was pretty sure verstappen was much faster and could’ve overtaken raikkonen even by staying 1 meter more on the track than he did, hence what the stewards just said is false, he could have completed the overtake even going off track, it was just a tiny accident, imo verstappen deserved 3rd place there.

        1. @esploratore I looked at the incident again when this article came up. Firstly it should be said there’s no excuse for the level of aggression shown against the stewards (death threats etc.). But did Verstappen have a point? As usual the initial problem is track design. Painting where the track ‘is’ rather than there being a clear physical difference between track and no track is always contentious, and badly designed, especially on inside corners. And as usual too, many of the problems arise when one of the drivers goes off track to avoid a collision (or apparently so). Raikkonen leaves space and then cuts inside, Verstappen swerves right, off the painted track, at that moment. RAI seems to be on a normal racing line, though, and Verstappen was far back as he started the move. I think the sticking point is that had Raikkonen known Verstappen was going to use ‘all’ the track, including outside the painted line, he could and probably would have blocked any pass by taking another line, less further left. So telling Verstappen to give the place back would have been correct.

  3. It was a fair decision, given the nature of the track. I’d rather have no asphalt on the inside of the corner and leave the drivers to it.

    1. With a wall on the inside Max would not have reacted to Kimi steering in. Hit the wall or touch a car going almost the same direction at the same speed? Easy choice.

      Now there was a safe way out and he took it. But they did not crash, and would not have crashed if Kimi kept on steering inwards either. Max did the right thing.

  4. James Whiteley
    6th February 2021, 15:38

    I wouldn’t have thought it was a tough decision at all. He cut the corner to make the pass. I’d have thought something like Vettel in Montreal 2019 would be much tougher to make.

    1. For sure it was a no-brainer that he was way too inside and off the track. The tough part of it was just that it meant taking a guy off a podium spot, for even if he didn’t rightfully belong there, there were some moments that passed when Max and RBR would have thought he had third. And even when the decision was made they (Max, RBR and some fans) would have even felt robbed, hence it felt tough for Connelly. In hindsight and away from the heat of the moment, yeah I think everyone agrees including Max that the right call was made.

      1. “I think everyone agrees including Max that the right call was made.”

        No, the don’t; it would have been the right call had every driver going off-track gaining an advantage that weekend had been penalised.
        Even the pole-sitter went off-track, gaining an advantage, and got away with it.

        As of today, this decision reeks of idiocy!

        1. @oconomo Except he didn’t. The driver who achieved pole position.

  5. I was a brilliant move that put nobody in any danger but, it was a bit naughty. Nice try though.

    1. Exactly! Max tried to pull the wool over the Stewards’ eyes, but failed. They saw through his subterfuge.

      1. Brilliant, and all that thinking in a millisecond.

  6. The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s legendary Laguna Seca pass. Amazing but off track.
    Conspiracy theorists believe to this day that the true reason Max was penalised was to avoid the awkward prospect of having a person below Texas drinking age chugging champagne on the podium. Also because Kimi wanted the bottle.

    1. @johnbeak The Rahal team were furious with that pass & there was actually a pretty heated argument in the paddock between members of the Ganassi & Rahal teams.
      Ganassi felt it was a fine piece of opportunistic driving & that Herta had simply left the door open & braked too early. Rahal & to be fair a lot of others in the paddock felt that Alex braked way too late, Would never have made the corner, Was off track when he completed the pass & that by leaving the door open Herta had actually avoided contact.

      Rahal initially intended to protest the result but CART officials made it clear that they were of the view that it was the last race of the season, It hadn’t affected the championship fight (Although it had given Alex 3rd in points & helped Reynard win the chassis constructors cup) & therefore they didn’t really care. They did however make that sort of thing illegal from the start of the following year & I believe also specifically mentioned it in the drivers briefing for the Laguna race in ’97.

  7. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    6th February 2021, 16:17

    Non story from 4 years ago. No one even remembers or cards about this race now. Theres tougher decisions than giving a fair penalty.

  8. Tough decision in terms of consequences and the inevitable torrent of unpleasantries they knew they’d receive… but as he says, there wasn’t much of a debate as to whether or not it was a legal move.

    Feel a bit sorry for stewards when stuff like this happens. They know exactly what the response among certain fans is going to be, and how much flak they’re going to have to take, but the decision has to be issued regardless. Sounds like a great job most of the time, but if they ever got round to having a ‘fan steward’ (looking at you to go first, Formula E), it’d definitely put me off applying…

    1. “there wasn’t much of a debate as to whether or not it was a legal move.”

      But there was. It was a weekend were basically every other driver went off-track gaining an advantage, but only Max got penalised.

      It was a joke.

      1. But wasn’t every driver going off track, to a certain degree, on the outside of one specific turn, whereas Max took it to another level by going totally off track and inside KR where nobody had gone likely all weekend?

        1. @robbie Yes. T9 and T19. The FIA checked each driver’s mini-sector times taken between any given two consecutive light panels, and the outcome was that going off at those corners didn’t lead to a direct time improvement.

  9. They didn’t strip Max’s podium, because he had not earned it in the first place. They have back Kimi his podium. Different way to see the same thing.

  10. Remember the start of Mexico 2016 GP, when both Mercedes went of track and gained a lot of advantage (in track distance) yet nobody said anything? Vettel was right to tell Charlie to **** off because rules application is so inconsistent and convenient to some. So convenient that Salo helped another Finn get that podium!!!

    1. Indeed, this is a reasonable conspiracy theory, also salo had been a ferrari driver, but I hadn’t thought about the nationality thing too! To make it clear, I like verstappen but I also like raikkonen, I have no problem saying when raikkonen deserved to get the win he got or didn’t, like austin and monza 2018, but with that very slight corner cutting to me verstappen made it clear he’d have passed raikkonen with or without going off the track, which is in total disagreement with what this article is saying.

    2. @omarr-pepper Rosberg got pushed off, and Hamilton slowed down immediately (even before SC) to give away the distance he’d gained. Those happening on the opening lap partly also impacted the outcome, as the approach to lap one incidents is generally more lenient than to later laps when the field is more spread out.
      @esploratore The 2017 US GP pass at T17 would’ve been unlikely to happen without the brief corner-cut by the entire car width.

  11. Yet the notorious Mexican cross-country drive was legal, so are things, and btw in the same GP was penalised post-race and lost a podium for a much, much lesser corner cutting

    1. in the same GP Max was penalised

    2. @melanos See my explanation above.

      1. Ok with the usual leniency in lap one, the rest is BS

    3. Going off track and gaining A LASTING ADVANTAGE. Hamilton went off track on the opening lap, he rejoined and slowed to eliminate the advantage he’d gained. Had Verstappen slowed and eliminated the advantage he had gained (I.e. given Raikkonen the position back) then he would not have received a penalty.

  12. Fair in itself, but ridiculous when they consistently don’t rule against cutting corners for lasting advantage. Remember Whiting even had to join a driver’s press conference after Mexico one time to defend the hypocrisy.

    1. @balue He was there to merely explain things that mightn’t have been clear cut to people. Making them easier to comprehend.

      1. @jerejj No, the unprecedented move of joining a driver press conference was just to cover up as even the media was in uproar, and as usual the line was of course that they had done everything 100% perfect as they always do.

  13. There was another one tough decision in Austria. Max vs LeClerck. I was there, they (dutch fans) were ready to tear the place down… No, just kidding….

  14. I’m sorry but you shouldn’t be a steward if you found that decision tough. He was clearly 4 wheels off the track, I even called it live, there and then.

  15. Max did not have to leave the circuit to overtake Kimi, but to avoid a collision …
    Kimi did not expect Max on the inside during this overtaking action. He took the corner without knowing that Max was now sitting next to him.
    Max responded by move to the right …
    It was a great overtake which should never have been punished …

  16. Sport is emotion. Of course a driver and team boss full of adrenaline after a race that get a decission make some heated comments. As Connely says, if you’d ask them about it now they’d probably say the decision was fair enough. What more needs to be said.

  17. Consistency is the issue here. Sometimes a punishment is given, sometimes not.

  18. Slow news day? :-)

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