Why did Verstappen have to push it so far?

Max Verstappen racing his Red Bull Racing car

If there’s one thing that’s sure in Formula 1, it’s that surprise is just around the corner.

Just one week ago, the usual doom-mongers were calling for root-and-branch change after what at least one person described as the worst race ever.

(I do wonder the extent to which Sky’s drab, one-dimensional commentary and coverage is responsible for perceptions that F1 is boring at the moment. I missed the race live, and watched the highlights on Channel 4. I didn’t think it seemed all that bad…)

Amid all that doom and gloom, it was almost inevitable that the Austrian Grand Prix was going to be a stonker. It duly delivered.

Max Verstappen’s comeback from a poor start will surely go down as one of the great drives. Yet, the threat of a penalty hung over him for hours after the race — and it didn’t really need to.

It seems as though there is going to have to be a root-and-branch review of driving standards following the third serious controversy in three races. None of them were clear calls, and the stewards have been left making difficult decisions as a result of drivers pushing the limits of the rules. This is an indication that the rules are no longer fit for purpose.

In this case, I think it’s fair that Verstappen didn’t receive a penalty. But I am left wondering why on earth he left himself vulnerable to receiving a penalty at all.

I’m not a racer, but it seemed to me that Verstappen had the clear upper hand over Charles Leclerc. So why did Verstappen have to push Leclerc off the circuit? It was totally unnecessary.

I’d rather have seen Verstappen pull off the move more cleanly. If he’d done so, he’d have had a clear win. Instead, he forced the stewards to decide whether he should keep it or not.

It reminds me of his totally unnecessary scrap with Esteban Ocon at Interlagos last year, when Ocon was unlapping himself. Verstappen should never have got drawn into that situation, yet he went out of his way to pick a fight.

This weekend was the same. There is talk of how Verstappen has matured a lot and cleaned up his act. But his unnecessary clash with Leclerc showed that he still has some way to go.

Original header photo by Alberto-g-rovi [CC BY 3.0]

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6 responses to “Why did Verstappen have to push it so far?”

  1. Clive Allen avatar
    Clive Allen

    Watch the video of the lap previous to Verstappen’s pass on Leclerc. He made the same move at the same place, gained the inside of the corner and allowed Leclerc room on the outside. Leclerc used the Ferrari’s greater power and traction to accelerate out of the corner and regain the lead. Clearly, the only way for Verstappen to make the pass stick was to deny Leclerc the room to use his advantage. If there’s a way to win, Max will take it. He wasn’t the first driver to squeeze the driver on the outside into a dead end and he won’t be the last. It’s legal.

  2. Thanks for the comment Clive. Great to see you’re still reading!

    I fully agree that Verstappen’s move was legal. Where we perhaps disagree is over whether what he did was really necessary. Yes, he failed to make the move stick on the previous lap. But I feel like he was putting enough pressure on Leclerc to get by in a more clear-cut fashion. I think he may
    have made it work even if he had left a car’s width on lap 69.

    What makes me wonder is why Verstappen felt like he needed to stretch things that far rather than find a cleaner way to do it.

    Either he was seeking out controversy, or he didn’t have the confidence that he could make the move stick without pushing his rival off the circuit. Neither of those options reflects well on him.

  3. Clive Allen avatar
    Clive Allen

    Surely Max has had enough controversy in his career so far – to court more seems a bit of a stretch. Which leaves the second option. Except that he wouldn’t have planned to push Leclerc off the track. Just to block him to prevent use of the Ferrari’s greater power and traction would be enough. It was hardly Max’s fault that Leclerc chose to contest the corner to the point where they touched. Max was in front and therefore had the right to the racing line.

  4. […] a difference five weeks make. Before the morning of 30 June, the mood of the Formula 1 community was about as downbeat as it […]

  5. Alianora La Canta avatar
    Alianora La Canta

    Option 3, which I think is borne out by how he’s driven since, is that Verstappen still doesn’t know any other way past someone. And the fact he went all-in against Leclerc of all people is something for which he could be paying a price for a long time… …because it forced the stewards to make a judgment. Before this, Max was able to enjoy an advantage over his opponents because for the others, the ambiguity of steward reactions prevented them from trying the same moves Max routinely got away with. Since that fateful move, they’ve been able to defend themselves better (in Charles’s case, with complete success) – and only Red Bull coming on song and Ferrari’s strategic blundering have protected him.

    This move may end up costing Max his advantage, if Ferrari ever sorts themselves out.

  6. Great comment Alianora, I think you’re right. Certainly the way Leclerc came for Vetstappen at Silverstone was very telling.

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