Max a ‘bad sportsman’ for skipping podium celebration

Walking off the podium without joining Lewis Hamilton in the post-race celebrations, Max Verstappen says without proper champagne it “wasn’t fun”.

For the third race in succession, Verstappen finished runner-up to Hamilton, P2 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

It was a testy one at that with the title rivals racing wheel-to-wheel, forcing each other off the track and even colliding.

Verstappen was given two time penalties for his part in all of that – a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage off the track and, after the race, another 10-second penalty for erratic driving.

That penalty related to his lap 37 collision with Hamilton, the Briton having accused the Dutchman of brake-testing him and calling him “f***ing crazy”.

The stewards agreed, stating “the sudden braking by the driver of Car 33 was determined by the stewards to be erratic, hence the predominant cause of the collision and hence the standard penalty of 10 seconds for this type of incident is imposed”.

The post-race penalty did not change the result, Verstappen holding on to P2.

Stepping up onto the podium to receive his trophy and a bottle of rose water – no champagne in Saudi Arabia – the 24-year-old quickly made his exit.

Speaking to Sky Sports, he said: “Because there was no champagne. It wasn’t fun.”

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on the podium. Saudi Arabia December 2021

His actions, though, did not go down well with some fans or pundits.

BBC sports commentator Sulaiman Folarin said of it: “Max Verstappen just confirmed he is a bad sportsman.

“He walked off the stage without celebrating as customary. Where are his apologists?”

Max Verstappen walks off the podium and just underlines the sort of sportsman he is…” said The Sun’s Luke Gardener.

However, former driver Martin Brundle was a bit more sympathetic to Verstappen’s obvious disappointment.

“He walked off the back,” he told Sky F1. “He doesn’t want any part of that.

“He clearly feels very aggrieved he had to give the lead back — having offered the lead back, but there was contact.”

David Croft added: “Verstappen doesn’t want to celebrate on that podium tonight. If the gloves weren’t off before, they certainly are now.”

 

 

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Marko overruled again in Hamilton penalty bid

Helmut Marko appears to have been overruled for a second time in Saudi Arabia by Red Bull over trying to elicit a penalty for Lewis Hamilton.

On Saturday, the 78-year-old Red Bull consultant had claimed an appeal would be launched after Hamilton escaped without a grid penalty for two incidents during FP3 – cleared of ignoring yellow flags and given nothing more than a reprimand for blocking Nikita Mazepin. But no appeal happened.

After the race, in which Max Verstappen incurred three separate sanctions for incidents that also involved Hamilton, Marko again was seeking punishment for the seven-time World Champion, who won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to draw level on points with his title rival.

The Austrian was unhappy that Hamilton had not kept within 10 car lengths of Verstappen on the lap to the grid for the first restart at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit and hinted on ServusTV that an appeal might be forthcoming.

However, race director Michael Masi stated there was no case to answer because that was not actually a formation lap, and so Red Bull are believed to have no plans to seek action against Hamilton.

Marko was also in typically feisty mood after the race regarding the collision in which Verstappen was hit from behind by Hamilton’s Mercedes while trying to surrender the lead to the Briton, a move designed to try and avert the five-second penalty that came his way.

“We hope there will be a re-assessment with the officials when we can back up our view with facts – and hopefully there will then be a punishment for the Hamilton side,” Marko is quoted as saying by Sport1.

Marko believed the evidence lay in Verstappen’s brake pressure during the incident on lap 37 of 50, with the stewards having found the Dutchman responsible of “erratic” driving.

They said Verstappen had “braked suddenly (69 bar) and significantly, resulting in 2.4g deceleration” as the “predominant cause of the collision”.

But Marko insisted: “We feel we have been treated unfairly. We are working to prove Max’s braking pressure did not increase when he crashed with Hamilton.

“Hamilton simply misjudged and drove into Max’s car. Unfortunately, that left two big cuts in our rear tyre. That’s why we couldn’t attack anymore.”

 

Red Bull are understood to have accepted all the stewards’ decisions from Saudi Arabia and will focus their attention on trying to provide Verstappen with a car in which he can finish ahead of Hamilton at the season’s finale in Abu Dhabi to secure a first Drivers’ title.

 

 

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Hamilton set fastest lap as wing damage went ‘up and up’

Lewis Hamilton gained the extra point for the fastest lap of the race in Jeddah despite wing damage costing him up to 0.4sec per lap.

That point could be crucial in the context of the World Championship fight as Hamilton drew level on points with title rival Max Verstappen after winning the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Parts of the wing were seen flying off Hamilton’s car as the final laps progressed, and Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the loss of time each lap was only increasing as the car became less stable.

“It was going up and up,” Shovlin said about the wing damage, quoted by The Race. “So we started off with probably only a tenth or two after he got sandwiched and Esteban [Ocon] rode over it.

“We were quite lucky it just seemed to hit the road, lost a few bits but bounced back, no more damage.

“After [the contact with] Max we then lost the whole side of it, getting up to nearer four tenths of performance.”

Hamilton let out a sigh of relief when asked by Sky Sports F1 about setting the fastest lap, smiling as he said he “took a lot of risks to get that” extra point.

Shovlin said setting the fastest lap with a damaged car was simply down to Hamilton’s sheer will on the track, but added he may have thought differently about pushing so hard if he had been able to see the damage that had been done.

However, Shovlin added it had been a tough call by Mercedes to keep him out with the damaged wing as they felt it was “not guaranteed” to stay on his car – but they took the risk and it paid off for them.

“He’s very determined,” Shovlin said of Hamilton’s quickest lap.

 

“At the time, we were very much in two minds, we were seeing other people struggling with the tyres, we could see the wing was most definitely not guaranteed to stay on the car after the evening it had.

“It’s a difficult decision between doing something that might put Lewis level or do you play it safe? Ultimately Lewis took the decision, and his decision was probably aided by the fact he couldn’t see his front wing.

“If he was watching the TV like we were, he may have thought better of it.”

 

 

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Bottas grabbed P3 despite Mercedes tyre ‘mistake’

Valtteri Bottas felt his quest for a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix podium finish had been made harder by a Mercedes “mistake” during the first stoppage.

The Finn, who started second on the grid, had been into the pits for hard tyres under the Safety Car – like his team-mate Lewis Hamilton – just before the race was red-flagged following Mick Schumacher’s crash.

Bottas had to stick with those hard tyres for both restarts instead of Mercedes taking the opportunity for a free change and lost places to rivals on the medium compound, but he eventually worked his way through and snatched third place from Esteban Ocon by outdragging him on the final run to the line.

It meant the 32-year-old, on his 100th and penultimate race start for Mercedes, helped them build a 28-point lead over Red Bull going into the concluding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and is now secure in P3 in the Drivers’ standings behind title rivals Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

“It was not an easy day,” Bottas told reporters afterwards. “There were many obstacles and obviously with the red flags and everything made it a bit tricky – and with the first red flag, being on the hard tyre, that was a mistake I think. The first red flag really had us over.

“Some of the guys with the medium tyres got me, but then I got the mediums after and it was okay. I just kept pushing. It wasn’t easy to overtake but finally on the last straight I got third.”

The cars with which Bottas was battling were Ocon’s Alpine and Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren, the latter having collided with the Mercedes man at the recent Mexican Grand Prix.

“It makes a difference to be fourth or third,” said Bottas. “Obviously Esteban had a good race and they were actually surprisingly quick and it wasn’t easy to get him, but I got him just at the end. Just kept pushing and it was worth it not to give up.

“He actually was driving really well and also before that I was stuck behind Daniel for a long time, which made me consume my tyres quite a lot. Actually my front right tyre was pretty finished, so that made it even more tricky.

“Once I dropped to fifth at the first restart, I knew it would be all about being patient and eventually getting there, whatever would be possible. It was a bit closer than I thought, but made it.”

 

On his battle with Ricciardo, Bottas added: “We obviously didn’t collide this time, so that’s a bonus. It was good racing. It was a tough race, pretty intense, but I enjoyed it.”

 

 

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Masi denies ‘deal’ with Red Bull over Jeddah restart

Michael Masi says Max Verstappen’s grid ‘penalty’ for the second restart of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix resulted from an “offer” rather than a ‘deal’.

A predictably chaotic first race at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit featured three standing starts due to two red-flag stoppages – one caused by a Mick Schumacher crash and the second by a collision that ended the races of Nikita Mazepin, George Russell and Sergio Perez.

For the third and final occasion when the cars formed on the grid, Verstappen should have been at the front but instead lined up third following an incident where he had clashed with his World Championship rival Lewis Hamilton at the previous restart.

This ‘grid drop’ came about following separate conversations between Masi and the sporting directors of Red Bull and Mercedes, Jonathan Wheatley and Ron Meadows respectively, where they agreed to that course of action rather than Verstappen being given a penalty.

It was referred to during broadcast coverage as a “deal”, but in speaking about the episode later the FIA race director preferred to use different terminology – and insisted the seemingly unusual chain of events had been anything but irregular.

Michael Masi talking on phone at the Brazilian GP. Interlagos November 2021.

“I wouldn’t call it a deal,” Masi told the Formula 1 website. “From a race director’s perspective I have no authority to actually instruct the teams to do anything.

“In that situation I can give them an offer, the ability to do that, but the choice is theirs.

“The stewards are obviously empowered to impose penalties but I can give them my perspective. That’s why I offered them (Red Bull) the ability to give that position up.

“It was as a result of the red flag that came about with the incident at turn three. The priority in any red flag situation is to make sure the drivers are safe, then to activate the recovery and the marshals can clean the track and so forth, so it probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal.

“However, it’s very much a normal discussion that takes place.”

 

The Australian insisted there had been precedents not only during this season but in past campaigns too, and that he acted as soon as he had seen the first of three incidents during the race for which Verstappen was penalised for skirmishes with Hamilton.

“Immediately when I saw it happen at turn two I suggested to the stewards I would give the team the ability to give that place back,” explained Masi.

“The red flag obviously ensued very quickly thereafter and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again. Being under a suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing again.

“Very much a normal discussion that happens on a number of occasions and has had all year and previously.”

 

Planet F1 verdict

 

 

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Herbert ‘sure’ one more twist is coming in Abu Dhabi

Johnny Herbert has praised the two “gladiators” fighting it out for the World Championship – and expects a final twist in the battle for the title.

Lewis Hamilton took victory in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, finishing ahead of Max Verstappen and moving level on points with the Red Bull driver heading into the final round in Abu Dhabi at the  weekend.

The two title challengers collided in Jeddah when Verstappen was instructed to let Hamilton past, but the Red Bull driver was later given a 10-second penalty for “erratic” driving as the Mercedes man went into the back of him heading to Turn 27.

Hamilton eventually came out on top in the race and set up a final-day showdown, and Herbert thinks it could be a dramatic finale of an “epic” year around Yas Marina.

“This one has just been epic the whole way through,” Herbert told Sky Sports News. “There have been twists and turns all the way through the season, and we are talking about going into the last race and we’ve already had a twist going into Abu Dhabi.

“I’m sure there will be another twist at a circuit a lot of the drivers know – they don’t know it fully because it’s slightly changed – but I still don’t know who will actually come out of it crossing that line for that chequered flag.

“Because it’s that tight, it’s brilliant. It’s these gladiators, Max and Lewis, that are really going at it.”

There have been worries voiced about a race-ending collision between the two title challengers, with several moments of contact throughout the year.

 

As Verstappen leads the Championship by virtue of having an extra race victory compared to his title rival, Herbert said it would only be the Dutchman who would stand to benefit from a crash at the weekend.

“I don’t want to see the championship decided by one of the drivers taking out the other, and that will only be Max because he’s got the advantage of those race wins,” said the Sky Sports pundit.

“I hope it doesn’t come down to that because I just want to see the skill of these guys being tested.”

Hamilton feels Verstappen’s driving has been “over the limit” of late and that he has had to take avoiding action on several occasions against the Red Bull driver.

 

 

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Report names 2022’s six sprint qualifying venues

A report has revealed which six circuits Formula 1 would like sprint qualifying sessions to take place at next season.

The new format, consisting of a traditional qualifying session on a Friday that determines the grid for a Saturday sprint ‘race’ which then sets the starting order for the main event on the Sunday, was introduced this season.

It was used on three occasions, at Silverstone, Monza and Sao Paulo, and while it was not universally popular among the drivers and fans, the sport was generally happy with how things went.

So much so that, long before the end of the current campaign, they began to state their intentions to double the number of sprints for 2022.

Valtteri Bottas leads at the start of Sao Paulo GP sprint qualifying. Interlagos November 2021.

“Many circuit promoters have told us they would like to see sprint qualifying as part of their offering in the future,” said Ross Brawn, F1’s motorsports managing director, in June, quoted by Corriere dello Sport.

“We have an internal group that measures all the different ratings and polls the fans, dividing them by categories.

“We can imagine a scenario in which perhaps there are six events in 2022 in which to try this format again, and from there it could expand further.

“Who knows what the ideal number would be? I think it’s something we will have to discuss once we have a clear idea of how it works and how successful it is.”

 

Exactly where they will take place has remained unclear, even with the confirmation of the 2022 calendar, but a report from Autosport has now revealed which venues F1 wants to play host to them.

If they get their way, the race weekends in Bahrain, Imola, Canada, Austria, the Netherlands and Brazil will all feature sprint qualifying sessions.

Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be used as a sprint qualifying weekend, it means the format will be used to open the 2022 campaign.

Brazil is the only venue on F1’s wish list that hosted a sprint in 2021, which would mean Bahrain, Imola, Canada, Austria and the Netherlands all staging sprint qualifying for the first time.

 

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Ricciardo relishing ‘dream scenario’ of title fight

Daniel Ricciardo is loving the “dream scenario” the title fight has arrived at ahead of the final race – and says it is a “gift” for Formula 1.

In a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fight hard and collide, they ultimately finished it in P1 and P2 respectively with the Mercedes man taking an extra point for fastest lap.

As a result, the seven-time World Champion and the Dutchman head into the season’s finale level on points – and it is the first time title rivals have done that since 1974.

Ricciardo has always wanted to witness such a scenario and says it is a “dream” for the sport as a whole.

“That they go to Abu Dhabi with the same number of points is a gift to the sport,” the Australian said, quoted by nos.nl.

“I’ve been hoping for that for years, although of course I’d prefer to be in the fight myself.

“We will have a real final. The veteran who can break all records versus the youngest grand prix winner ever. That’s a magnificent story. A dream scenario.

“I call it a battle royale. The pressure couldn’t be higher. May the best man win.”

Ricciardo is enjoying the battle so much in fact that he tries to follow it on big screens during races – and was glad the red flags let him keep up with it last time out.

“Sometimes I try to follow the race from the cockpit on the big screens but it wasn’t easy in this one. This isn’t really a circuit to watch screens,” he said.

“But all the interruptions and incidents allowed me to follow how things were going between Lewis and Max.”

The McLaren driver is not the only former team-mate of Verstappen who is loving the title fight we are witnessing, with Pierre Gasly somewhat blown away by the situation.

“It’s unbelievably beautiful for the average neutral fan that this is happening,” said the Frenchman.

“Lewis and Max equal in points. Unbelievable. You are not making it up. I don’t know if we’ve seen it before in Formula 1 history. At least I can’t remember it.

“It’s a crazy scenario. I’m very curious how it will turn out.”

 

As for the Dutchman’s current team-mate, Sergio Perez, he says he will do all he can to help out the 24-year-old but has not given up hope of winning the Constructors’ Championship with the team either.

“My task in Abu Dhabi is clear,” he said. “I will support Max as much as possible in his duel with Lewis, but we are fighting on both fronts. We can also become world champions as a team.

“Everything is possible. It can fall either way.

“The interests are high and the pressure is enormous. It almost never happens that both titles are still at stake in the last race.”

 

 

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Martins has no regrets over Renault split

Alpine academy driver Victor Martins has no regrets over the decision that led to him temporarily leaving the programme in 2020.

The Frenchman joined the Renault academy in 2018 but after being narrowly beaten to the Formula Renault Eurocup title by Oscar Piastri in 2019, he opted to stay in the series for another year rather than move up to Formula 3 as the team wanted, leading to the two parties splitting up.

He went on to win the Eurocup title in 2020 and was thus brought back into the academy, now rebranded to Alpine along with the Formula 1 team, and given a spot in F3 for 2021. Given how things have worked out, he is happy with his decisions.

“A driver always wants to move up to the next level. It was a difficult decision to make with my personal management,” he told the French version of Motorsport.com.

“Of course, I knew I potentially had the opportunity to be in F3 already for 2020. But when I think back today to how I was, I tell myself it was really not the right time and that I still had a lot to learn.

“Maybe I didn’t have the opportunity to be in a top team that would allow me to show myself at the forefront. We have to go through difficult times. It strengthened me mentally.

“Today, I’m that much more proud and I tell myself this was really the right path to take.”

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Martins has driven alongside fellow Alpine juniors Piastri and Christian Lundgaard on multiple occasions as the three have made their way through the ranks.

While he is only just entering F3, the other two will be in Formula 2 in 2021 and are widely considered to be in contention for an F1 seat.

Martins admits that can be frustrating, but he is trying not to pay much attention to it.

“During the 2020 season, I just learned how important it is to focus on myself and not on others,” he added.

“I can be frustrated if I see Christian and Oscar in Formula 2 and me still in Formula Renault, but I think the most important thing for me is to focus on myself, to continue to develop my skills and improve myself well as a person and as a driver as well.

“I tried to tell myself this was the opportunity to go through situations I had not experienced in previous years – leading the championship instead of being second and chasing another driver.

“I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished. I can hardly be more ready [for the step up] than I am today.”

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Kvyat: Luck has not been on my side this year

Daniil Kvyat was taken out in Germany through no fault of his own and feels that luck has rarely been on his side in 2020.

At the Nurburgring, Kvyat was in with a shot of finishing in the points before Alex Albon hit him, taking off his front-wing and ruining his race.

The AlphaTauri driver ended up crossing the line last of those who finished the race, while team-mate Pierre Gasly took P6.

The margin between the two is now 39 points, and Kvyat feels that this has largely been down to bad luck on his side.

“Unfortunately, the Nürburgring race did not go well for me from lap 12 onward when I got hit by Albon, but these things happen in racing. He got penalised, but my race was damaged from then on and so was my car,” he said.

“Up until then, I was definitely racing for solid points and I had been happy with my lap in Quali. However, the events were out of my control and luck has not been my strongest point this year, to be honest. Nothing seems to have landed in my basket for free. I have had to work hard for everything

“But we will turn the page and move on. We keep working, we keep digging with my engineers and I am still happy with the way we approach each race weekend.

“Our understanding of the car is much better, and it will come right soon. It’s been good for the last few races and it was just this last weekend where we were unable to score points.”

Portimao Circuit

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The Portuguese Grand Prix is next up on the calendar and will see the sport go to Portimao for the first time ever.

Like the majority of the grid, Kvyat has never driven there before, with his only experience of it coming on a simulator.

“I’ve never been to Portimao, so it will be a completely new experience for me and I guess for most of the other drivers. It will be an interesting challenge,” he added.

“A while ago, I did a few laps of the Algarve circuit on the simulator, but it’s not so fresh in my mind. I think we will have to work hard and learn everything we can on Friday and Saturday morning.

“It is quite an unusual layout, with drops and climbs, so something different to work on. We should get ideal weather there at this time of year, in the low 20s maybe, certainly better than the unusual conditions we had at the Nürburgring.”

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