Paul Ricard, 2021

Why Verstappen and Bottas weren’t penalised for French GP track limits violations

2021 French Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas avoided penalties during the French Grand Prix despite failing to follow the race director’s instructions in how to rejoin the circuit after running wide.

The Red Bull driver lost the lead at the start of the race after going off the track at turn two. Later in the race Bottas ran wide at turn four.

In both cases the FIA had set down instructions on the routes drivers were required to follow to rejoin the circuit. However as race director Michael Masi explained, drivers and teams were told before the race each case would be “considered on their merits”, and for Verstappen and Bottas the requirements were waived.

Verstappen ran wide at turn two at the start and passed to the right of the first yellow bollard on the inside of the corner. Under the rules issued to drivers during the weekend, he was therefore required to “rejoin the track by driving through the two arrays of blocks in the run off by passing to the right of the first and to the left of the second”.

Instead of doing this, Verstappen rejoined the track after the two bollards, losing one position to Lewis Hamilton. Driving between the blocks in the run-off area would have cost him much more time.

Masi said it would have been impossible for Verstappen to comply with the requirements at that point on the circuit.

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“We saw Max going off in that area the other day where it was quite clear that it would have been physically impossible to actually get to that point, to manoeuvre around, because it depends upon the trajectory of which you’re arriving,” he explained.

The bollards “are put there for what has historically been the most common trajectory of going off a turn one and rejoining,” Masi added. “It was looked at and deemed that in that circumstance it was quite clear that Max slowed, lost a position, rejoined in a safe manner, and therefore no further action was necessary”.

Later in the race Bottas went wide at turn four, and passed the bollard on the inside of the corner on the left. The rules stated he had to “rejoin the track by driving to the left of the block in the run-off prior to turn five”, which he didn’t do.

Masi confirmed he was satisfied Bottas had rejoined the track in a safe fashion.

“It was deemed that where Valtteri did go off at the apex of turn four, that he actually probably did the safest thing in those circumstances, lost a significant amount of time and rejoined in a safe manner. So therefore it was deemed that no further action was necessary.

“However, it was counted as one of his, let’s call it, ‘three strikes’ towards a black and white flag, which obviously you don’t see on a screen anywhere. But it was certainly one of the three that was taken into account, which was his only one during the race.”

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2021 French Grand Prix

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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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6 comments on “Why Verstappen and Bottas weren’t penalised for French GP track limits violations”

  1. In Max’s case, angle indeed was the decisive factor, as were, losing a position anyway and slowing down.

  2. one black and white, the other not???

    1. ….one strike toward a b/w…. sorry

  3. Well, I guess it makes sense that the FIA / Stewards look at every case on its own merits.

    On the other hand, I find it kind of strange that they first put all the emphasis on “you MUST” go being those bollards, but then waive that with several of the front runners.

    If they give us solid explanations – I would prefer getting the FIA / Formula 1 to put up a video with footage/stills on their app and on YT (for example) that showed exactly WHY it was safe this way, despite not doing what they insisted on before the race. That way other drivers can also understand and learn and fans don’t have to build up too many crazy theories about “why him but not others”.

  4. Is there a way to see the race control messages anywhere live? In the past there was a feed with them but when they renewed the timing app they were not in there anymore.

  5. I hate this. Even though I like the tense battle that followed, I’m strongly in favor of physical deterrents/penalties in the form of grass/gravel/astro turf… So with grass there Verstappen would probably rejoin half way up the field. Likewise, Hamilton going wide as well later would maybe result in a Perez win.. That would also be great to watch

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