An hour and a half before the start of the Qatar Grand Prix, Max Verstappen was given a five-place grid penalty, meaning he had to start the race in seventh position. The reason for that penalty was the ignoring of double yellow flags, which were waved by a marshal on start-finish. There the battered car of Pierre Gasly had come to a stop. The penalty led to great irritation at Red Bull Racing and some blunt statements from team boss Christian Horner, who received a warning for this after the race. What particularly stuck with the Austrian team is the fact that the race management no longer considered the yellow flag necessary and that the marshal continued with flags on his own.
“It shows humanity and greatness that Max went to the marshal and had a picture with him,” former F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg told the program. Sport and Talk in Hangar-7. At the same time, he also shows understanding for the behavior of the Dutchman on the track. “It is understandable that Max went full throttle in training. The car was on the right, the marshal on the left. That man had waved on his own initiative, although the race management no longer gave a yellow flag.”
Saudi Arabia important for title fight
In the end, the grid penalty didn’t hurt Verstappen, because after five laps he regained the second position that he lost due to his penalty. There was also not much left for the Red Bull driver, who finished second behind his unapproachable competitor Lewis Hamilton. The reigning world champion is still eight points behind Verstappen in the title fight, while there are still two races on the program. “Lewis is not nervous, he is fighting for his eighth world title. For Max, it’s just crazy how cool he stays under his first fight for a world title,” said Hulkenberg. “It’s very balanced at the moment. I think Saudi Arabia is tipping the scales. It depends on who stays clear there – and that includes the pit crews and so on.”
At the same time, Hulkenberg is impressed with the form Hamilton has shown in the last two races. With two consecutive victories in Brazil and Qatar, he has completely restored the tension in the title fight. “It is possible that Lewis was even more spurred on by the difficult weekend in Brazil. It was a sensational performance from Lewis, clear. Psychology also plays a role here. Lewis drove the perfect lap in qualifying in Losail, which was reflected in the images from the onboard camera.”