MEXICO CITY — Max Verstappen admits he could have been less harsh in his criticism of the U.S. Grand Prix stewards — one of which he branded an “idiot — but says his anger at losing a podium was completely justified.
Verstappen appeared to have stolen third position from Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap in Austin with a thrilling move through the final sector. However, the stewards handed him a five-second penalty as he had dipped all four wheels off the circuit to complete the move, leading to a confused Verstappen being led out of the cool-down room for Raikkonen as the top three waited to take their spots on the rostrum.
Though the penalty was correct by the letter of the law, it was an inconsistent verdict as there had been several instances earlier in the race of drivers going off track — including Sebastian Vettel’s Turn 1 move for the lead and Valtteri Bottas in his fight with Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo — without punishment.
Red Bull was furious with the decision. While father Jos vented on Twitter and shared a picture of the FIA’s logo with the caption ‘Ferrari International Assistance’, Verstpapen’s immediate comments about the stewards gained significant interest.
After the race, the Dutchman said: “”It’s just one idiot steward up there who makes the decisions against me.” This was widely reported to be a reference to FIA steward Garry Connelly.
Though he did not issue an apology to the stewards for his post-race rant in Thursday’s Mexican Grand Prix press conference, Verstappen admitted he regrets some of the language he initially used.
“I think it’s quite normal that I got angry,” Verstappen said. “Of course I could have used a few different words but at the end of the day I still think that the decision is not correct.
“I think after a race the emotions run high, especially when you’ve been taken off a podium which I think I deserved. I think the punishment was not correct because everybody was running off the track in Turn 19, 8 and 9, even in Turn 6 when you were behind someone you were cutting the inside – a lot of cars were doing it.”
“I think the fans were loving it, it was a great move and then they tell you that you’re gaining an advantage while overtaking someone. If I was really gaining an advantage I would do it every single lap, which you are not, so I don’t think it was gaining an advantage. Like I said, a lot of other people did it as well, they were cutting the inside of the corners and then I am the only one who was getting penalized, which I think is of course not correct.”
Verstappen also distanced himself from the suggestions he had been talking about Connelly.
When asked who he had been referring to, he said: “I don’t want to name any names.
“You also have to understand a bit my point of it, but of course the words were not correct. I can’t change that right now and it was not meant for anyone. I was not trying to offend anyone, otherwise I would have named them by name if I wanted to offend someone.”