Max Verstappen was poised to stand on the podium in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, but the Red Bull Racing driver was docked five seconds immediately after the checkered flag for gaining an advantage on track to do so.
Courtesy of a 15-spot grid penalty for power unit changes, Verstappen started Sunday’s race only in 16th place, but rose to the top-six within the opening laps, and was into the lead by Lap 21 of the race.
Running fifth into the final six circuits, Verstappen got Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for fourth once Bottas lost a spot to Sebastian Vettel in dramatic fashion at Turn 1. Scuderia Ferrari swapped Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen around, which put Raikkonen third and Verstappen fourth in the final stages of the race.
The Dutchman got within DRS range on the final lap and made one final lunge on Raikkonen for third at the carousel complex, Turns 16, 17, and 18, but was deemed to have cut the track by sticking all his wheels and off course, as his incredible pass of Raikkonen for position was erased.
A five-second penalty was assessed for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
Verstappen thought he’d finished third but was removed in the FIA cooldown room after the fact, promoting Raikkonen back to the final podium position, and making the second time in 12 months (2016 Mexican Grand Prix) Verstappen had lost a podium after the race actually finished.
The Dutchman expressed his displeasure with the decision in an interview with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton after the race, and although he didn’t mention him by name, Verstappen called out Race Steward Garry Connelly.
“The whole weekend you can run off track everywhere you want… OK, fine, if it’s like that, then that’s the same for everyone. But then I had a good fight with (Valtteri) Bottas and he runs off track, then comes back on in front of me, and I had to overtake him afterwards, but there’s no penalties given,” he said.
“Then I basically fight with Kimi in the last lap… I went maybe 5-10 centimeters off the track, and I think the crowd was loving it. It was really weird to give me a penalty, and also to get it that quick after a race. At least have a talk in the steward’s room. But it looks so bad on TV to pull someone away from the podium. Again, I had the same last year in Mexico… they clearly don’t learn from it. And for the sport, this is killing it. Everyone was loving it. There’s not a good way to kill the sport, and this is it.”
Verstappen said Connelly “knows” that he’s “one particular steward who makes those decisions against me.”
The 20-year-old called for more consistency in rules adjudication after the race.
“At the end of the day just be clear about it. So if you say, ‘OK, that’s fine,’ we’ll do what we like. If you say, stay within the white lines, then we’ll stay within the white lines. It’s very simple.
“But yeah we need more consistency and at the end of the day let us race. At the end of the day it was 5 centimeters and everyone was loving it. It was a great show. Just be consistent. If it wasn’t allowed, OK, that’s fine, I finished fourth. But don’t say everyone else, you can run off the track anywhere you like, and never give any penalties, then I do it, and you give me a penalty.”