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Formula 1 Japanese GP

FIA admits to Verstappen F1 Singapore GP penalty mistake

The FIA has admitted to Formula 1 teams that the controversial decision to give a reprimand to Max Verstappen for an impeding incident in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying was a mistake.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

It has confirmed that the Dutchman should have received the standard three-place grid penalty for one of his two impeding offences, which would have dropped him from 11th to 14th on the final grid.

The FIA has also promised that the Singapore decisions will not be used as precedent and will in effect be erased from the database of past incidents that stewards refer to when making calls.

Verstappen was the subject of three impeding investigations in Singapore, including one for getting in the way of Yuki Tsunoda on the track, another for blocking Logan Sargeant, and a third for waiting at the end of the pitlane with a queue of cars behind him when trying to create a gap.

In the event he escaped sanction for the Sargeant incident and received reprimands for holding up Tsunoda and for waiting in the pitlane.

The fact that he hadn’t received a radio message regarding Tsunoda was regarded as mitigating circumstances, and the team was fined €5000.

The decisions came as a surprise to rival teams and drivers as qualifying impeding incidents have traditionally led to grid penalties, with several team representatives visiting the stewards to discuss the matter.

In the immediate aftermath of qualifying even Verstappen himself expected to receive at least one grid penalty, and he took full responsibility for the Tsunoda incident.

Asked about it by Autosport, the Dutchman said: "Yeah, that was not good. I didn't see him because I was on the radio talking about what was the problem.

“And then I didn't get a call up until he was basically behind me. It basically sums up my qualifying, it was just super hectic and messy."

FIA name board

FIA name board

Photo by: Erik Junius

Pierre Gasly, who received two three-place impeding penalties in Spain, was one of many who were left confused by the outcome.

“I’ve had tough decisions against me, with a six-place penalty in Barcelona this year for impeding, and it was definitely way less than what I’ve seen yesterday,” he said after the Singapore race. “Maybe now this is allowed. I don’t know, I’ll ask.”

Lando Norris was another driver who didn't understand the reprimand decisions.

“I think there should just be harsher penalties for blocking people, because so many people do it," he said in Japan on Thursday. "It ruins your lap it ruins your qualifying, it put Yuki out in qualifying, and he was P1 in Q1.

“Just no one seems to care enough. And it's happened a lot this season, it's happened to me quite a few times, especially with certain teams.”

The subject came up in Friday’s team managers’ meeting in Suzuka, and steward Matteo Perini – who served in Singapore and is providing continuity in Japan – admitted that on review the on-track reprimand decision handed to Verstappen should have been a grid penalty.

In addition, Sargeant should have probably had a penalty for a separate incident involving Lance Stroll, although there were other circumstances in his case.

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Perini confirmed the Verstappen calls would not be used as precedent in the future, and also that a lack of radio warning on approaching cars should not be given as mitigating circumstances that protect the driver from a harder punishment.

Regarding the Verstappen pitlane incident, the Singapore stewards still back their original decision to give a reprimand as waiting in the pitlane is not expressly banned in the rules - but they have told the FIA there should be a regulation that covers such circumstances.

Although the teams and drivers now have clarity, they may also question the fact that Verstappen started three places higher in Singapore than he should have, and thus potentially denied rivals valuable points, with an easier climb to his eventual fifth place finish.

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