Red Bull Blasts 'Rogue' Steward, 'Incompetence' of FIA in Response to Verstappen Grid Penalty

·3 min read
Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images
  • F1 points leader Max Verstappen was determined by officials to have ignored waving yellow flags during Saturday's third qualifying session for the Qatar Grand Prix.

  • The penalty was a five-place grid penalty for Sunday's race, which left Verstappen to start seventh.

  • Verstappen finished second in the race and saw his championship lead fall from 14 to 8 points with two races remaining.

Veteran Red Bull Racing consultant Helmut Marko has doubled down after Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was officially rebuked for lashing out at what Horner called a "rogue" steward in Qatar.

Horner's frustration was about a pre-race grid penalty for championship leader Max Verstappen, after Verstappen was determined by officials to have ignored waving yellow flags in the decisive moments of Saturday's third qualifying session.

"Unfortunately there’s a yellow flag—he just didn’t see it," Horner told F1 media partner Sky Sports before Sunday's race that saw Verstappen start seventh and finish second. "He saw the white one (panel), he saw the car, he even saw a green light on the right-hand side. I think it’s just a rogue marshal that stuck a flag out. He’s not instructed to by the FIA — they’ve got to have control of the marshals. It’s as simple as that. That’s a crucial blow in the championship for us. We’re now starting P7 at a track you can’t overtake at. That is massive."

Marko said he understands Horner's anger.

"The anger is about one car not being shown a yellow flag, the next car being shown one and the third car being shown two," Marko said. "It's just about the inconsistency."

It's also about the world championship, with Verstappen ultimately having to recover through the field to finish second rather than start from P2 in the first place.

"If Max had started second, it would have been closer," Marko said. "Logically he lost some time in the initial phase and had to demand more from the tires."

As for Horner, he apologized for his outburst about the steward.

"He also apologized personally to the person who showed the yellow flag," said F1 race director Michael Masi. "To Christian's credit, he also volunteered to take part in a steward workshop in 2022. "From my perspective, I will protect every volunteer on every track in every part of the world, because such comments about them are unacceptable."

Verstappen himself, whose title lead to Lewis Hamilton now drops to just eight points with two races to go, said when asked about the penalty: "I never get gifts from the stewards, so that's OK. No surprises."

Marko, though, moved his frustration from the steward in question to the FIA as an organization.

"It's ridiculous," the 78-year-old Marko told European media outlet Sport1. "The FIA cannot set up a decent marshaling system and tries to hide its incompetence by putting it onto the shoulders of the drivers. In the digital age, the drivers have everything on the display. And there was nothing on the display. And suddenly an inexperienced person was waving flags.

"Then the message came from Masi that it was OK, and at the same time Max saw the green light which he thought was for him. It was just an unfortunate situation and in my opinion none of the drivers should have been punished."

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