Red Bull found themselves in hot water after scathing comments against the FIA after driver Max Verstappen was given a five-place grid penalty just 90 minutes before the start of the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.
The Dutchman was penalised for ignoring yellow flags in the final part of Saturday’s qualifying session and was demoted from second to seventh on the grid, before cutting through the field at the Losail circuit to finish behind Lewis Hamilton on the second step of the podium and limit the damage caused by the reprimand.
Pre-race, though, both team principal Christian Horner and Dr. Helmut Marko, head of the team’s young driver programme, launched public attacks on the governing body’s handling of the rules.
“To be honest with you, we are really struggling to understand it. It looks like a complete balls-up,” Horner told Sky Sports.
“The dashboard on Max’s steering wheel was indicating everything was fine, otherwise we would have informed him. Unfortunately, there’s a yellow flag and he just didn’t see it. I think it’s just a rogue marshal that stuck a flag out and he hasn’t been instructed to by the FIA. They’ve got to have control of their marshals. It’s as simple as that.”
Horner was subsequently summoned to explain himself to the stewards and charged with breaching the international sporting code, leading him to speak again with Sky in the aftermath in order to offer a public apology for “any offence caused” to the marshals who give up their time for free to make Formula 1 races safe.
Marko, meanwhile, questioned the FIA’s competence and ability to manage events. “It’s ridiculous,” he told DAZN just before lights out. “You know the FIA can’t organise a proper marshalling system and they are hiding their incompetence on the shoulders of the driver. Unbelievable.”
It was a controversial week in F1 after Verstappen avoided a penalty in Interlagos at the previous race for running Hamilton off circuit as he tried to overtake the 24-year-old, before a Mercedes appeal over the incident was heard and ultimately rejected in Qatar on Friday morning.
With all said and done, Verstappen leads the championship by eight points from Hamilton with two rounds left to go, in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
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