Max Verstappen has criticised the current driver penalty point system which could see him banned from driving for a race should he repeatedly incur the wrath of the stewards. Following the ‘near decapitation’ of Fernando Alonso by Romain Grosjean at the Belgium Grand Prix in 2012, a system of penalty points for the F1 drivers’ was eventually designed in an attempt to make the more reckless think twice.
The stewards can now award penalty points to drivers whose conduct is deemed to be beyond the pale, and should a driver accumulate 12 points within a 12 month period, they will now be banned for the following race.
The last driver to suffer an F1 race ban was Romain Grosjean following his alleged attempts to make his Lotus a flying machine in Spa Francorchamps in 2012, though this was prior to the new points totting up system now in place. A number of F1’s hierarchy felt this decision was maybe too harsh, and the power of the stewards to inflict such a headline penalty should be made more incremental.
F1’s new superstar driver, Max Verstappen, however believes the current regulations are wrong. “It’s a shame, they shouldn’t stop us from racing. I can’t change it now but definitely I have to be a bit more careful”. Max is clearly concerned because he’s racked up 8 penalty points during his rookie season in 2015.
The first 2 points awarded to the Dutchman was following an incident where his Toro Rosso mounted the rear of the aforementioned Romain Grosjean’s Lotus in Monaco. This is something his elders and betters have done before; ask Mark Webber about his 200mph rear end shunt with Heikki Kovalainen in Valencia. Yet the two penalty points Max was for his ‘carelessness’, was not adjudged too punitive on the whole.
Verstappen is though concerned that the current punishments for this kind of behaviour may inhibit his and other drivers’ racing ambitions. “I don’t think that is what the fans want to see, that I have to back off when I want to overtake because I’m scared to touch someone. We have to maybe revise the system a bit but it’s not up to me”.
The young Dutch driver completed more racing overtakes in 2015 than any other driver, his tally of 49 is stark by comparison to the statistic which shows the average number of passes per F1 driver in 2015 at 26.8.
In fact Max cleaned up at the FIA’s end of season gala, picking up 3 awards for rookie of the year, personality of the year and best action of the year. The latter was for his breath-taking, around the outside pas on Felipe Nasr through the high-speed Blanchimont corner of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. This was part of a drive that saw the Toro Rosso driver advance from 15th place on the starting grid to an eighth-place points finish in the race.
Yet despite the FIA accolades, Verstappen feels the current penalty point system should be scrapped. “Maybe they should do it in a different way rather than penalty points and eventually a race ban,” he says. “They should come up with a fine or whatever. That is also painful but it’s different than a race ban, because it’s really bad for you career if you get a race ban.”
Indeed, Verstappen must avoid being awarded 4 more points in the 2016 five opening races before Monaco to ensure he does not receive a race ban, which is clearly on his mind. “Definitely the first few races [of 2016] I have to be careful,” he said. “Maybe when you want to try a risky move when maybe you’re touching someone, I can’t so it’s a shame, but I will try to overtake people anyway.”
Perversely, this mindset of Max does in fact suggest that whilst the FIA receives criticism for much they turn their hand too, their driver penalty point system is working as intended. There was much talk in previous seasons of GP2 style driving being inappropriate and dangerous in Formula One, so the FIA regulation for driver penalty points for now is ensuring that the new drivers in Formula One, treat the races with respect and don’t turn the events into a demolition derby.
To avoid being banned, Verstappen simply has to repeat his start to the 2015 season, which saw him keep a clean nose with the stewards until his Monaco moment of madness.
Max Verstappen’s misdemeanours and driver penalty points
- Monaco, caused an incident, 5 place grid drop, 2 penalty points
- Hungary, safety car speeding, drive through penalty, 3 penalty points
- Abu Dhabi, left the track and gained an advantage, 5 second penalty, 1 penalty point
- Abu Dhabi, ignored blue flags, drive through penalty, 2 penalty points
Other Verstappen stewards rulings
- Great Britain, left the track during qualifying, time deleted
- Hungary, involved in an incident with Bottas, no action taken
- Hungary, left the track gained an advantage over Bottas, no action taken
- Italy, unsafe release, drive through penalty
- Japan, stopped on the racing line, 3 place grid drop
- Mexico, exceeded the maximum permitted time between the two safety car lines during qualifying, no action taken