Red Bull F1's Max Verstappen overcame a string of problems heading into the United States Grand Prix, eventually putting on a performance that could have landed him on the podium. Despite qualifying sixth fastest on Saturday, grid penalties knocked him to P16 for the race start, immediately putting him at a disadvantage against the field at Circuit of the Americas. He was able to battle and climb his way to fourth place on the 51st lap directly behind Ferrari veteran Kimi Raikkonen.
During the race, an opportunity came to pass Kimi, which Verstappen took—although he ran all four wheels off of the track limits in the process. In part as a result, the 20-year old Red Bull pilot finished the race in P3, initially gaining him a podium spot...before race stewards declared a five-second penalty for his decidedly unlawful overtaking maneuver.
This set Verstappen off, as he was asked to leave the podium to make room for Raikkonen—and triggered a wave of controversy across social media.
Verstappen himself admitted to interviewers after the race that he felt it was unfair considering the actions of other drivers throughout the event.
“Well, I mean, everyone is running wide everywhere including myself,” he said. “Turn nine you can run wide, turn 19 you can go off track and nobody would say anything—it’s the same with [Valtteri] Bottas. I went for a move and he continued outside of the track, he came back and I really had to pass him and nothing has been done against that while he definitely gained an advantage. If he just made the track, he would have been behind me so it’s not good for the sport and they (the stewards) have to be really clear on the rules if it’s not allowed everywhere."
He continued to explain that there was nothing he or Red Bull could do about the grid penalty from qualifying, but this five-second fine was too far.
“The engine penalty is like it is, so we had a great race but with these stupid decisions, you really kill the sport. I mean, I really hope the fans didn’t like this decision and next year they won’t come.”
Max's father Jos also made his opinion clear, taking to Twitter to voice his views. He is quoted saying "shame on the FIA" and that the decision was "bullshit." Jos, a former F1 driver himself, said that "only Max" would get a penalty for an act that other drivers had been performing all race long.
A report from Autosport detailed that Mercedes team chairman and F1 great Niki Lauda also disagreed with the FIA's call. He went on to say that it was the "worst decision ever", criticizing the stewards as he believed that Verstappen "did nothing wrong." Verstappen backed this statement up by saying that "one idiot steward" has been out to get him all season, according to Sky Sports F1.