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Verstappen unchanged on view over Austin penalty, but regrets comments

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Max Verstappen has not changed his view on the penalty that denied him a podium finish in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix, but admitted on Thursday he regretted his choice of words in criticizing one of the Formula 1 race stewards.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Sunday, having completed the fightback with a last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen.

However, the overtake was immediately scrutinized by the stewards at COTA, who deemed Verstappen to have cut part of a corner by riding over the kerb, and handed him a five-second time penalty.

Verstappen made his anger over the penalty clear after the race, telling British TV that it was “one idiot steward” who always targeted him, thought to be Garry Connelly, who has previously sanctioned the Red Bull driver.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Verstappen stressed his view on the penalty had not changed, but admitted he was wrong to use the words he did.

“I think after a race the emotions run high, especially when you’ve been taken off a podium which I think I deserved,” Verstappen said.

“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.

“Also the fans I think 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.

“I could have used different words, for sure. But like I also said I was angry at that time because I think it was not correct and I’ve already said all the reasons why I think it was not correct.

“So 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.”

It’s official: Laguna Seca to host INDYCAR for at least next 3 seasons

Laguna Seca, from the 1991 CART race there. Photo: Getty Images
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INDYCAR made it official today: the 2019 season-ending race will move a couple of hours down the Northern California coast to WeatherTechRaceway Laguna Seca.

Sonoma Raceway, which has hosted INDYCAR since 2005 – including the last five season-ending races (that includes this year’s upcoming season finale) – will not be part of next season’s schedule.

Earlier today, the Monterey County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors, which oversees operation of the iconic racing facility, approved a three-year agreement with INDYCAR to host next year’s season finale on Sept. 20-22, 2019.

The remaining two race dates for 2020 and 2021 will be announced later, according to an INDYCAR media release.

The 2.238-mile permanent road course previously hosted CART and Champ Car World Series Indy car races from 1983 through 2004, including the season-ending races from 1989 through 1996.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. “Monterey is a place people want to be, and we will bring all of our guests. I think it’s a great choice for us.”

Bobby Rahal, former CART/CCWS driver and current INDYCAR team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, won four of the prior 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca, all consecutively (1984-87).

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” Rahal said. “I personally won four Indy car races there and won my first Can-Am race there. Our Indy car team won with Bryan Herta and Max Papis and our sports car team won IMSA races there.

“So I would almost bet you that Laguna Seca is the site of more victories for me as a driver and team owner combined of any track I’ve ever raced on.

“There is nothing better than the Monterey Bay area, and it’s a great circuit that always drew great crowds. So I’m thrilled to have Indy car racing coming back to a circuit I love so much. We will put on a good show, for sure.”

In addition to Rahal as a multiple winner, two-time winners at Laguna Seca were fellow current INDYCAR team co-owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta, INDYCAR on NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy, Danny Sullivan and Patrick Carpentier.

“The return of INDYCAR to its spiritual road racing home of Laguna Seca is a tremendous honor and testament to the appeal of Monterey, and through the support of the County of Monterey will provide a significant economic benefit to our area businesses,” said Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, “We are looking forward to creating more memories in race fans’ minds like Bobby Rahal’s four consecutive Indy car wins from 1984-1987, Mario Andretti’s farewell race in 1994 and Alex Zanardi’s last-lap overtaking of Bryan Herta in the Corkscrew in 1996 that simply became known as ‘The Pass.'”

NBC Sports Group has secured exclusive domestic television and digital media rights for INDYCAR races beginning in 2019. Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, agreed that Laguna Seca is an ideal venue to close out the schedule.

“We commend INDYCAR for returning to Laguna Seca, a historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season finale,” Miller said. “The 2019 season will be our first as the exclusive media rights partner of INDYCAR, and we could not be more pleased to broadcast the championship from beautiful Monterrey.”

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