Max Verstappen lambasts race director

Frustration mounted at Red Bill after multiple laps were deleted during qualifying for Austrian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, the reigning Formula One world champion, has launched a scathing attack on the Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich, accusing him of making drivers look like amateurs after 47 lap times were deleted during qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix. 

Despite securing an impressive pole position, Verstappen expressed his frustration with the track limit penalties, calling them “ridiculous” and “a joke.”

In a heated radio outburst, Verstappen exclaimed, “This is a joke, honestly with these track limits. F****** ridiculous.” 

He continued to voice his grievances in a post-qualifying interview, criticising the excessive number of laps being deleted and the marginal nature of some of the penalties. 

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Verstappen remarked, “It made us look like amateurs with the amount of laps that were being deleted. And some of them were so marginal.”

Highlighting the inconsistency of the enforcement, Verstappen revealed that drivers had discussed how to handle the situation during the pre-qualifying briefing. 

Despite the discussions, laps were still being deleted, leading to a sense of frustration among the drivers. Verstappen emphasised, “Today showed that it is not easy to have a clear rule about it.”

Acknowledging the difficulty of adhering to the track limits, Verstappen explained, “If it is that easy, you can take my car and try it, but you probably wouldn’t get up to speed in time.” 

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He further emphasised the challenges posed by the Red Bull Ring, stating, “It is one of the worst tracks for it, especially towards the end when the tires are getting really hot and are not as agile as at the beginning of the lap. 

“It is super hard to judge, particularly with the compressions.”

Revealing insights into the decision-making process, Mail Sport disclosed that a panel of five or six observers, known as the Remote Access Operation, closely monitor the live action from Geneva. 

Equipped with specially positioned cameras, the observers assess potential track limit breaches. 

They examine each corner frame-by-frame, allowing them to visually determine if all four wheels have crossed the white line. 

Any suspicious instances are then flagged to race control.

Wittich reviews the footage and consults with his senior colleagues before making the final call on any transgressions. 

Responding to the criticisms, an FIA spokesperson clarified, “If it is marginal, we give the benefit of the doubt to the driver.” 

The FIA also expressed its desire to place gravel around the corners to clearly demarcate the limits but cited MotoGP’s opposition as a hindrance.

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While Verstappen secured pole position, his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez had a disastrous day, with all his Q2 times deleted. 

As a result, Perez will start the race from 15th on the team’s home track. 

Lando Norris will start fourth for McLaren, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will begin from fifth and 11th respectively for Mercedes.