A controversial decision at Las Vegas GP has led BBC F1 analyst Jolyon Palmer to voice his disapproval of Red Bull Racing’s tactical decisions during the Las Vegas Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen was penalised for an illegal move on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The incident occurred early in the race when Verstappen, after an aggressive start, attempted to overtake Leclerc on the outside of Turn 1. However, both drivers went off the track and Verstappen was penalised five seconds for forcing Leclerc off the track and making an illegal overtake.
Red Bull’s calculated risk
Palmer accused Red Bull of calculated complacency by not instructing Verstappen to hand back the position to Leclerc immediately after the incident. This decision, according to the FIA stewards, led to the basic penalty as Verstappen never fully established a lead before the corner.
Palmer speculated that Red Bull were fully aware that a penalty was imminent, but chose to accept the time penalty rather than relinquish the lead.
“Red Bull took the pragmatic approach, which I find very, very boring for the Grand Prix,” Palmer told BBC Radio 5 Live, expressing his disappointment at the team’s lack of sporting spirit.
The unfolding of events
Despite Palmer’s initial fears that Verstappen would easily take the lead after the incident, the race did not unfold as expected. The penalty dropped Verstappen to ninth after his pit stop and he struggled to regain his position against the likes of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.
The dynamic of the race changed as Leclerc and Verstappen’s team-mate, Sergio Perez, battled for the lead. It took another safety car and a strategic tyre change for Verstappen to rejoin the front runners and eventually take command of the race, leaving Leclerc behind.
Verstappen reacts to penalty
Verstappen has accepted that his five-second time penalty at the Las Vegas Grand Prix was “probably the right decision”.
Speaking after the race, Verstappen reflected that the low grip conditions at the start of the event caused him to overshoot the corner.
“The start was good. But then we both braked quite late to defend a position but I was a bit on the inside on the dirt, I guess As soon as you’re a bit off line here, it’s a super low grip and that’s what happened. I braked and there was no grip.
“I didn’t mean to push Charles off the track, but I couldn’t slow it down and I just kept sliding wide on four wheels. So that’s why we had to go wide. At the time, you’re also full of adrenaline and I was not happy with the decision. But looking back at it was probably the right call.
“With that five-second penalty, it was definitely a bit harder to come back to the front.”
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