Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

Verstappen expected to avoid gearbox change and penalty

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen is expected to avoid a five-place grid penalty as Red Bull do not believe his gearbox needs to be replaced.

The world championship leader’s crash in the final seconds of yesterday’s qualifying session prompted fears over the condition of his gearbox. Verstappen hit the wall at turn 27 on his final lap of qualifying with his right-rear wheel, causing extensive damage.

Verstappen had a new gearbox fitted to his car this weekend and replacing it would incur a five-place grid penalty. He originally qualified in third place, behind championship leader Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.

Drivers incur an automatic five-place grid penalty if their gearboxes are swapped before they have completed six consecutive events. Verstappen was therefore at risk of falling to eighth place on the grid.

However RaceFans understands Red Bull is satisfied with the condition of Verstappen’s gearbox after the team tested it around four hours after qualifying ended at Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and he is expected to start from third place.

This article will be updated

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40 comments on “Verstappen expected to avoid gearbox change and penalty”

  1. Big risk…

    1. It’s a big risk to take not changing the gearbox. Max should have enough speed to make the positions back if he took a 5 place grid drop. Surely the safe approach and scoring points is better than risking scoring no points at all

    2. Yep, Ferrari made the same conclusion with Leclerc and look what happened…

    3. I think RBR wouldn’t take risk unless they were POSITIVE it’s fine. They are not Ferrari.
      Wishful thinking by Hamilton fans.
      VER chances of winning are still good.

    4. You also need to keep in mind the general situation of the championship: getting a 5 place grid penalty ensures hamilton wins this race, and means that should mercedes be faster in the last race it’s game over, therefore this could be a calculated risk by red bull, as in risking a retirement to get some sort of hope to win this race (at start), cause a gearbox penalty means losing the title already.

  2. That’s fantastic news. What a race this will be! Only 8 hours left aproximately .

  3. They should fit a new one. Better to do it for this race (which is very unpredictable) than have to do it at the final race which is pretty much a Lewis/Merc track

    1. Didn’t Max win there last year? We thought Austin was a Mercedes track and it went to RB. Then we thought Brazil is a RB track and it went to Mercedes. It’s very hard to predict this season.

      1. Slow corners are being replaced with mid to high speed ones and slow corners are a weakness of Mercs. Also that track traditionally is a Merc track.

        1. That track’s better now.

      2. One of the most daftest things Hamilton has done in his career, was rush back from Covid for last years race. As we saw then with other F1 drivers and are seeing with numerous sportsman, you don’t get back to your very best in a week.

        Plus the new corners, definitely favour Hamilton

    2. Verstappen beat Bottas by 15 seconds at Abu Dhabi last year, and Hamilton was a little further back still.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        5th December 2021, 13:36

        @thegianthogweed it’s too close to call this year but comparing it to last year, where a post covid Hamilton had been spanking Bottas up to that point in a car that Redbull had finally out-developed…….
        Last year as we have learned is irrelevant!

    3. Sorry Pete and Ben you are both totally correct.
      I was going with the hype rather than the facts :/

    4. Wasn’t Jeddah supposed to be a Merc track as well? Even with the 🌶 engine of Lewis Max could have won pole on sheer space.

      1. It was supposed to be! But the sims and track plan didn’t quite show how narrow the track was and therefore the “corners” from the track plan are real high speed corners favouring the aerodynamically superior RedBull.

        At least this is true for quali, Merc seem to be saying that they’ve gone for a race set up where there will be less DRS deployment.

  4. Isn’t the car in Parc ferme, surely they shouldn’t have been allowed to test the gearbox. I thought that was why Leclerc’s gearbox was not able to be tested earlier this year hence it was a gamble based on sensor data and visual inspection.

    1. @slowmo in the case of Leclerc, it does seem that the team were able to carry out at least some sort of testing whilst in parc ferme, which was why they made the decision to not change the gearbox.

      It is also worth noting that the part which failed was the left hand side driveshaft hub, which was a component that Ferrari hadn’t checked because they didn’t think it had been damaged during the crash.

    2. @slowmo I think they are allowed to ask the FIA’s permission to inspect areas of the car they have reason to think might be damaged, and are allowed to replace certain items without penalty (under supervision ofc). Ferrari did this with Leclerc in Monaco, but they missed the damage because they didn’t expect it on the opposite side of the car from the impact. If Ferrari had played it safe and asked to inspect the opposite side of his car too, they likely would have found the fault and been able to replace it without penalty.

      1. Exactly, and I can’t really imagine Red Bull making such a mistake (even w/o the example of Leclerc telling them not to), that’s one of the differences, IMO, between Ferrari and Red Bull’s teams.

    3. Fergus sings the blues
      5th December 2021, 10:57

      That’s my understanding of parc ferme

      1. Then you need to go read the regulations :)

  5. Obviously.
    This guy’s luck looks a lot like Alonso’s one in 2005-06.
    There’s no way he can lose this title.

    1. Yeah, the luck on this guy this season:
      – lost the race in the final laps of Baku when a tire exploded
      – was taken out by Bottas when leading the race in Hungary, a track notorious for lack of overtakes
      – got the worse of a racing incident in Silverstone, losing 25 points to Lewis and having to change a brand new engine due to the crash.

      1. @gechichan He also:
        – won without racing in Spa (not his fault)
        – jump from 7th to 2nd in Russia thanks to rain (not his fault)
        – ran an opponent wide at Interlagos, keep the position and wasn’t penalized

        So yeah, Max got lucky sometimes, and that’s part of racing.

        1. – he still had to race and won pole position.
          – sure a bit lucky but excellent timing from the team as well. Was Norris unlucky? Sure but really bad calls from the team and driver.
          – racing incident; no further investigation.

        2. As you point out, Spa was not his fault. He did what he needed to in qualifying, and likely got a smaller difference in points over Hamilton than he would have without the half points.

          The rain in Russia was there for everybody, not just Verstappen. He’s good in these conditions and he took advantage of that. I don’t see how it was lucky that he was good at something. He just proved to handle it far better than many other drivers.

          Verstappen was lucky in Brazil, but had he given the place back, he likely will have gained no points at all, and even if he got the appropriate penalty, he would only lose 3 points.

          He’s had significantly more bad than good luck.

      2. Verstappen wasn’t leading the race in Hungary, though…

      3. @gechichan You may need to look at the replay of the Hungary GP – Verstappen certainly wasn’t leading.

        1. Indeed, my bad, he was second behind Lewis.

      4. @x303

        – Blew anything from 18 to 33 points to Hamilton by not backing out of a pointless defence at Silverstone, given he led the championship by 33 points.

        – Overcooked qualifying yesterday

        Sometimes, you make your own luck

        1. You’re right @banbrorace. All in all, Verstappen got some bad and good luck.

      5. Racing Incident 100%
        12th December 2021, 15:08

        got the worse of a racing incident

        Racing incident, yes. Big yes.

  6. …and who can forget Monza.

    1. One thing that I do think many forget about monza is that it was Red Bull’s fault that Verstappen was even fighting with Hamilton (as in being that far back on the track) Verstappen took the decision to do the stupid move he did, but the fact is, this wouldn’t have happened if he didn’t have an 11 second pit stop. If anything, this was more bad luck for Verstappen, that he admittedly reacted bad to.

      1. I think he’s still driven a more consistent season than Hamilton, but Mercedes managed to find loopholes in the rules to find an advantage.

        1. Where did they find loopholes? Not that it is a bad thing as that is one of the key things about F1 and always has been.

        2. So they’ve outsmarted RB?

          No wonder Horner and his hideous mate Jos Verstappen permanently look like they’re on a diet of wasps.

  7. If they tested it then it should hold out, and to be honest as none of us on here know how to inspect an F1 gearbox ourselves I think we can leave it up to the team to make a judgement. They know the consequences of a Max DNF, but also a broken wing should he start 8th and get caught up in some midfield shenanigans. I’m curious to see how much Bottas fights into turn 1. He got a lot of bashing for Hungary, so I can see why he’s been more cautious lately if I’m honest.

  8. This has got disaster written all over it.

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