John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
3 minute read
15 Nov 2018
9:46 am

Tempers flare up in Brazil

John Floyd

Verstappen was ordered to do two days public service for fight.

AFP / Lluis Gene
Max Verstappen celebrates his first Grand Prix win, taking the top spot in Spain on May 15, 2016 and becoming the youngest ever Formula One winner at 18 years of age

Last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2018 Formula One season, was a curious one.

From qualifying to the race, activities on and off track created food for thought.

Lewis Hamilton was fortunate to take the win, clinching a fifth consecutive constructors’ title for Mercedes. Until Lap 44 it looked as though the winner would be the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, until an incident with the Force India of Esteban Ocon ended his hope.

The incident was reviewed by the race stewards and Ocon was handed a 10-second drivethrough penalty and three penalty points on his licence. Verstappen almost burnt out the TV censorship bleep module with his furious tirade.

It was followed by an altercation in the post-race weighing room when the Dutchman stormed in, confronted Ocon and began to get physical, until intervention from the FIA officials put an end to the aggression.

Both drivers had to face the stewards and explain the situation.

The result was that they understood Verstappen’s point of view but determined that it is the obligation of a sportsman at this level to act appropriately as a role model to other drivers.

They ordered Verstappen to perform two days of public service at the direction of the FIA within six months.

The scene in the weigh station reminded me of my school days, many moons ago, when two very young scholars, both trying to avoid fisticuffs, pushed each other to show their bravado.

Usually it all came to naught. In the words of the Bard: “Much ado about nothing”.

It was a strange weekend in many ways. I was surprised on Saturday during Q2 of the qualifying session.

Every driver was trying to find the right tyre and get a fast lap in before the rain got heavier.

As Sebastian Vettel entered the pit lane he was flagged to be weighed by the FIA, with the seconds ticking away the German was obviously not happy.

The FIA officials took a long time to reach the Ferrari as Vettel gestured to them to hurry. Having initially failed to switch off the engine, he finally complied, was weighed and then restarted the engine drove away, damaging the rear scale pads.

The FIA referred the matter to the race stewards. The issue was that he should have been stationary, engine off and waited to be pushed on and off the scales. But what if the car would not restart?

Not impossible with a hot engine.

His pit crew was a long way off, ready to change the tyres, the reason he entered the pit lane. If it would not start, how long would it have taken to reach the stranded car and get it to the pit box?

My guess is too long to allow a final flying lap.

Having gone on to secure second behind Hamilton in Q3, we all awaited the outcome of the steward’s investigation.

Some of the television pundits were muttering about grid penalties and even the possibility of disqualification from qualifying. Neither of the ex-F1 drivers-turned-commentators, Martin Brundle and Paul de Resta, appeared to agree.

De Resta queried why the FIA officials had not considered the weather and time limitations when calling for the random weighing process and the possible consequences to both team and driver’s efforts to secure a good grid position.

As it happened neither penalty was applied, but Vettel received an official reprimand and a fine of €25 000 (R404 000).

I have to wonder if the officials considered the possible outcome and the detrimental effect it could have on the fans that Formula One Management are so keen on satisfying.

I am not suggesting the acceptance of a contravention of the rules and regulations of the sport, but perhaps a more informed decision by officials could avoid yet another race influencing penalty.

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