Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Is stamping out ‘burn-out’ celebrations a killjoy over-reaction?

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen’s moment of celebration after his victory in the Styrian Grand Prix prompted an immediate rebuke from Formula 1’s race director Michael Masi.

The Red Bull driver celebrated his fourth victory of the 2021 season by coming to a stop near his crew, whose pit wall perch was situated a short distance after the finishing line. Verstappen then lit up his rear tyres and drove off.

Masi didn’t like what he saw and let Red Bull know “as soon as it happened”, that he considered it a safety risk.

“It was not an ideal situation, which is why I spoke to the team immediately and told them accordingly that something that would not be tolerated in future,” he explained.

What was Masi concerned about? And if Verstappen’s transgression was so serious, why was he not penalised on the spot?

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Other cars passed Verstappen as he performed a ‘burn-out’
The sporting regulations make it clear the race-winning driver “may perform an act of celebration before reaching parc ferme” but only if it “is performed safely and does not endanger other drivers or any officials”.

The potential risk in what Verstappen did is clear. He stopped his car within a very short distance of the finishing line, at a point which Formula 1 cars ordinarily approach at 300kph (186mph). Any driver accelerating towards the finishing line while racing a rival for position could have been in danger of hitting the Red Bull.

Coincidentally, the first driver to pass Verstappen’s stationary car has first-hand experience of the dangers that presents at the same circuit. In 2015 Nicholas Latifi struck Roberto Merhi’s car at the end of a Formula Renault 3.5 race:

Both drivers walked away from the crash, though both had a nasty shock, and Latifi in particular was fortunate not to have been launched into the gantry above the circuit. The impact was as if a bomb had gone off, debris exploding into the air. Had something similar happened in the vicinity of Verstappen’s celebrating crew the consequences could have been appalling.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Red Bull team members joined Verstappen in celebrating his emphatic win on Sunday

Merhi was held responsible from the crash and as well as being disqualified was forbidden from starting the second race later the same day.

Robert Merhi, Nicholas Latifi, Red Bull Ring, 2015
Report: Merhi banned after “dangerous” post-race crash
Did Verstappen put himself, other drivers and his team at risk of similar danger on Sunday? There are significant differences between the two cases.

While Verstappen had won the race and was celebrating, Merhi’s motives in pulling up after finishing fourth weren’t obvious and his rivals had no reason to expect it. While Verstappen stopped close to the pit wall, Merhi was closer to the racing line – it seemed his intention was to lay rubber across the second-place grid spot, from which he was due to start the afternoon’s second race, in order to improve his getaway.

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In the 2015 race Latifi began the final lap just over a second behind Merhi but his attention was taken up with fighting off a late-race attack from Tom Dillmann behind. Preoccupied with his fight for position, he didn’t notice Merhi stopping his Pons car ahead of him until it was too late.

Verstappen won Sunday’s race by 35 seconds – as he reached the end of the pit straight after taking the chequred flag Lewis Hamilton was back at turn seven. Other lapped cars did pass, however, and Verstappen had no way of knowing whether those behind might notice him suddenly slowing.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Verstappen only stopped very briefly
While Merhi showed no regard for the safety of his competitors, Verstappen’s actions clearly presented less of a danger. He was further away from the racing line, only stopped very briefly, and significantly slowed for around 10 seconds at most, during which time two drivers – Latifi and Lando Norris – passed him.

The stewards’ decision not to punish Verstappen is understandable. Yet the Merhi case shows the potential risk is much greater in circumstances which are only slightly different.

Masi has to consider not only what is safe practice in Formula 1, but the example it sets to junior drivers. Doing something like this in junior series, with larger, more tightly-packed fields of less skilled drivers, would clearly be more risky.

An unsighted driver hitting a much slower car ahead is one of the most dangerous scenarios in motorsport. Billy Monger’s crash into the rear of Patrik Pasma’s car at a British Formula 4 race four years ago – in entirely different circumstances to the above incidents – cost him his lower legs.

What Verstappen did may not have been dangerous, but the precedent set by allowing it to continue could be, which explains the FIA’s determination that it will “not be tolerated in future”.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021
Coincidentally, Latifi was the first driver to pass Verstappen’s stationary Red Bull

2021 Styrian Grand Prix

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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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51 comments on “Is stamping out ‘burn-out’ celebrations a killjoy over-reaction?”

  1. I’m please RaceFans summarized the facts, as several commenters seemed unclear on details.

    I’m ok with no penalty, but I agree that it was inappropriate. I’ve seen plenty of F1 celebrations, and there is no benefit to allowing them on the main straightaway before everyone is crossed the finish line.

    1. The potential risk in what Verstappen did is clear. He stopped his car within a very short distance of the finishing line

      Fact: he never stopped!
      He slowed down to do the burn out but never ever stopped.

      I do agree its not the right thing to do. And a warning by masi to max would be sufficient. But it seems masi is trying to look strong after his streak of errors.

      1. It’s fine to point out but what does that buy you? If one car is going 200-250kph and the other is going 0kph or 40kph, is it relevant? In either case the slower car/object will appear stationary.

  2. I thought it was unusually risky at the time but having seen the formula Renault crash it really shows the risk at this point of the race.

    I think it was handled well. No penalty but a note not to do it again so soon after the finish line.

    1. Understandable, but the quick Masi was in anouncing this, in contrast he made a late (1 minute!) call for a red flag in Baku after Verstappen crashed out of the race. The man never put out a warning to LeClerc’s dangerous driving in Austria.

      Reply moderated
  3. Verstappen was hardly further off the racing line than Mehri was — his left side tyres are right at the edge of the grid.

    Or put, another way, Mehri, too, was well off the racing line, which just shows that being “off the racing line” counts for little in this sort of thing. Latifi, in his battle with Tom Dillmann, was using the full extent of the road (as he’s perfectly entitled to do) and was therefore actually further off the racing line than Mehri was. It was only because he turned back to the left to try to avoid him that he hit him squarely. If Mehri had been where Verstappen was — two meters further off the racing line — Latifi would have been even more directly aimed at him when he pulled out behind Dillmann.

    1. @markzastrow Indeed. Both were pretty much as far away from the racing line or as close to the pit wall, depending on which reference one prefers.

  4. He was 1/2 lap ahead, yes, it was an over reaction.

    1. pastaman (@)
      29th June 2021, 13:08

      Not from lapped cars, and where do you draw the line?

    2. @jt1234v it’s quite baffling that someone takes the time to summarize the facts, precedents and situation of what happened, including a pic of a car passing as Verstappen is doing the burn out, and somehow some people still say “he was 30 seconds ahead”.

      1. Similar to a Captcha this site should do a small test if the full article was read/understood before allowing one to comment.

    3. @jt1234 Irrelevant as lapped Latifi, Norris, Mazepin, Sainz, and Leclerc reached the chequered flag before Hamilton. Your point (and other people’s) would stand valid if 2nd-placed Hamilton indeed were the next driver on the road, but he wasn’t.

  5. Martin Elliott
    29th June 2021, 12:56

    As with FIA, a clear lack of understanding of the difference between HAZARD & RISK, as internationally recognised by Hazardous Industries and Regulators.

    Hazard – is the intrinsic properties to cause a level of HARM

    Risk – is the probability/likelihood of a specific Hazard being realised.

    Unfortunately FIA Safety Culture, although a hazardous activity, is now under Masi, even more Hazard averse than even Risk averse.
    I see a Hazard, I want it eliminated, not just the Risk reduced.

    The critical factor here is how much the risk should be reduced by track position. The hazard IS the same; but who/why does one move to the wrong side of the track still at race speed.
    The history seems to be its happened once, at high level racing. Even then did it lead to new regulation?

    FIA would be better looking at how Law/Regulation and Industry manages safety in hazardous activities instead of still living emprirically in the 80/90s.

    1. And if the hazard/risk is deemed serious enough to introduce new rules, then I’m surprised that the stewards (possibly instructed by Masi) did not wave a yellow flag as soon as they saw Verstappen slow down more than expected*.

      * interestingly this could have frustrated a possible overtake by Perez on Bottas.

    2. Yeh but if you reduce the hazard to zero then the risk becomes zero too. There’s already plenty of hazards and risks involved in motor racing so there’s no point permitting one which adds nothing to the sport. Stationary cars on the pit straight in this context is an unnecessary hazard which can be eliminated in its entirety.

  6. Yeah, I always cringe when I see a car slow down on the track, it doesn’t what the reason is: car broke down, stalled at the start or celebrating on the finish line.

    And more specifically doing a burnout, what would’ve happened if he lost control like Bottas in the pitlane… could’ve landed on Latifi or Norris’ path.

    1. If Max had attempted a burn out in 2nd gear, he’d have been a laughing stock among the other drivers.

  7. I don’t see it as a safety issue but if they don’t want drivers to do it, fine. At least they’ve done it the right way. No penalties or controversy – just a note that it won’t be tolerated in future. I don’t think it’s that newsworthy…

    1. Agreed. Also I think the headline “stamping out burn outs” is itself an over reaction. They’ll simply just clarify not on the start/finish straight.

  8. When I saw Max do that I thought it was great but also thought ‘now get on it.’ And he did. I don’t think what Max did was dangerous on Sunday, but I don’t think he would have done it under a different circumstance, but nor do I think it should be encouraged. Not that it would be. Killjoy overreaction? No, but a penalty for that particular case on Sunday would have been.

  9. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    29th June 2021, 13:14

    Making it clear that it’s something not to do is a good thing if you’re concerned over safety but stamping it out with ‘this will not be tolerated’ kind of speech is a bit of a killjoy. If they don’t want it done that’s fine but maybe think of the language that you choose to use in enforcing that if you want to avoid looking like the fun police. Personally I thought it was pretty fun.

  10. Last-gasp chance for Masi to make the papers, he seems desperate to do/say something every week.

    1. Agreed. If only he was as quick to respond when cars have crashed and there’s a real situation with real danger.

  11. Fun will not be tolerated in F1, you must go to IndyCar for that.

    1. I remember being in a commercial center with a bunch of friends disguised in different costumes and a security officer came over to tell us ‘being disguised is not allowed inside the the commercial center’. We stood there next to the security officer and called our other friends who were disguised as well and were about to enter: “The fun police said we aren’t allowed in here so will meet you outside”.

      1. Kind of anticlimactic end to your jewel heist plans.

    2. They are actually allowed to do doughnuts, just not on the finish straight where other cars are still going full speed.

    3. I think Masi has overreacted, but the comparison to IndyCar is not correct. IndyCar does allow doughnuts and burnouts but only after the cool-down lap is complete, not directly after crossing the finish line. Personally, I’d like to see drivers do burnouts and doughnuts instead of cool-down lap and then parking their cars in the 1, 2, 3 spaces but it seems like the teams don’t want them to stress the engines or wear too much rubber off the tyres so they can make the minimum weight. A Kulwicki victory lap, named after NASCAR driver Alan Kulwicki who drove around the track in the opposite direction, would also be fun every now and then. After the other cars have cleared the track.

  12. Merhi, not Mehri (for all the commenters). Just like it’s:
    Kvyat, not Kyvat
    Ilott, not Illot
    Shwartzman, not Schwartzmann
    Led (past tense of lead), not lead.

    Please don’t cancel me haha.

    1. @wsrgo As a guilty party re. Merhi, thanks for the correction. :)

      1. @markzastrow No worries, thanks for putting up with insufferable old me :D

    2. Thanks for braking this to us.

    3. Check out the spelling checker bot on Reddit! Ex dee

  13. If it had been tolerated or ignored once, then it will become a regular thing, right up until someone gets injured or worse. We’ve never had finish line burnouts like this one before, so we’re not missing any “fun” by continuing to not have them.

    1. I agree that burn-outs can be dangerous so close to the finish line, but we do see it constantly that the winning car brakes significantly before their pit crew whilst other finishers overtake him even before the starting line.

  14. Well, I for one didn’t consider that a burn out, he just hit the gas and got back to speed, A burnout and celebration is clearly different, as it includes a huge amount of smoke and waving to crowds. That was no different than drivers heating tires on way to grid, nothing to see here at all.

    This was a leader coming to great his team at the wall like nearly every winner does, then hammering the gas to get back to speed as the rest of the field comes up.. and by the way, the race was flagged at that time so racing only goes to the line and he was past it. Lappers heading up should be able to see the entire situation clearly, these are F1 drivers, the best of the best…correct. Face it, Max is making the Red Bull look better than it is, no one else in that car comes close….Sergio, was not in the same race he was so far behind. Red Bull has a good car, Merc has a good car, both have a driver that destroy their teammates. This season is a long way from decided.

    Real difference this year is Merc are making mistakes both on and off track giving away points and then making matter of fact statements that they are just too slow. IF Red Bull are so fast on straights, why could Valteri hold Sergio so easily on equal tires.

  15. If Verstappen didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have that cool photo at the end of the article.

    1. @carbon_fibre so, it doesn’t matter what risk it might present to others because you might get a cool photo out of it?

      I do wonder how many would react here if it hadn’t been a popular driver doing this and getting warned by Masi – I strongly suspect that, if it had involved some other drivers, it would be perceived very differently.

      If we’d seen, say, Tsunoda celebrate in a similar manner for a good result, I have a feeling that the comments would be more mixed – some might be prepared to give him leeway for enthusiasm and youthfulness, but others might also take it as a sign of recklessness. Mick Schumacher would probably also get similar comments if he’d also carried out a similar type of move.

      If we’d seen Mazepin do something similar though, I would not be at all surprised if the comments would have been much more critical of his behaviour, given that a number of posters on this site have made rather clear that they have a rather negative view of him.

      The relative popularity of the driver and their portrayal in the press would likely strongly change the response here to the same activity, and I think that some here would have behaved rather differently if it had been an incident involving a driver they did not like.

      Reply moderated
  16. Latifi was further behind Max than Merhi (I reckon at least 10 seconds). He, of course, reduced the gap quickly, but some risk still existed if Max would’ve done a Bottas and spun while doing a burnout.

  17. about time they found another non-problem to solve, I was growing bored

  18. Should team members be forbidden to climb the fence to celebrate with their driver, then?

    To be honest, drivers have been slowing significantly whole crossing the line for years now… Every Sunday they go along the wall very very slowly … Sure, actually stopping is even slower than almost crawling along the pit wall, but where do you draw the line?

    Overall, I’m happy with the reprimand, as it’s not forbidding them from doing it, just don’t do it there. And it goes in line with Bottas incident on Friday

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      29th June 2021, 21:53

      @fer-no65

      I’ve commented on this and got a lot of criticism for it. Teams mechanics leaning right over the track. My biggest concern was when Williams went crazy when Bottas and Stroll were crossing the line next to each other – and many of them were all leaning over the track and only just hanging on. It could easily have gone horrible wrong if one had briefly let go.

      Those fences are not intended to be used as climbing frames. I think they should just make the mesh much finer to prevent climbing it being a possibility.

  19. The FIA hate motorsport. They banned V10s, V8s and now we are stuck with boring joyless V6 hybrids to keep Mercedes happy.

  20. When I saw this on the TV I was amazed when it became apparent it was deliberate. I thought it was pretty stupid at the time and I’m glad it’s been dealt with.

  21. Nobody here is bringing up the real safety elephant in the room: Racing F1 cars is too risky, we should ban it in the name of driver safety!

    Joking aside, we are living in times when it’s trendy to eliminate all risk. I hope the same people don’t complain when everything becomes clinical and there are a zillion rules to follow.

    I’m still waiting when people realize that wearing a cool helmet 24/7 decreases the risk of a head injury dramatically.

  22. Call me jaded, but I am now used to a yellow for anything stopped on the track. Soon as he did it I went oops. I guess his throttle could have stuck and pointed him in reverse at the same time the oncoming field were all looking at their steering wheels. But probably not. Since Bianchi, it’s the direction Todt has taken F1. It came with the halo.

  23. GET THE SNOWFLAKES OUT OF THE FIA!!!! There is enough crybabying around the world already.

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