Max Verstappen accuses race director of making Formula One drivers look ‘like amateurs’ – Maxsports
May 15, 2024

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Max Verstappen accuses race director of making Formula One drivers look ‘like amateurs’

Fuming Max Verstappen accuses race director Niels Wittich of making Formula One drivers look ‘like amateurs’ after 47 lap times were DELETED in helter-skelter qualifying session ahead of Austrian Grand Prix

Max Verstappen accused race director Niels Wittich of making Formula One drivers look ‘like amateurs’ after he deleted 47 lap times in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Even the world champion’s impressive pole position on Friday – his fourth in succession – did not stop him lashing out.

Verstappen, who had four of his own times scrubbed for running wide, blasted over the radio: ‘This is a joke, honestly with these track limits. F****** ridiculous.’ 

Speaking after beating Charles Leclerc to pole by five-hundredths of a second with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third quickest, he continued: ‘It was very silly. It made us look like amateurs with the amount of laps that were being deleted. And some of them were so marginal.

‘We spoke in the briefing before about how to deal with it if it was impossible to judge – yet the laps were still getting deleted.

Max Verstappen said that the stringent track limits were 'f****** ridiculous' over his radio

Max Verstappen said that the stringent track limits were ‘f****** ridiculous’ over his radio

Race director Niels Wittich was accused by the world champion of making the drivers look 'like amateurs' during Friday's qualifying session in Austria, with 47 lap times chalked off

Race director Niels Wittich was accused by the world champion of making the drivers look ‘like amateurs’ during Friday’s qualifying session in Austria, with 47 lap times chalked off

Almost every driver - including Verstappen's team-mate Sergio Perez - saw consequences

Almost every driver – including Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez – saw consequences

‘People will say, “Well, you should have kept it in the white lines.” If it is that easy you can take my car and try it, but you probably wouldn’t get up to speed in time.

‘Today showed that it is not easy to have a clear rule about it. In Q3 I was a bit more aware of where to put the car and not risk my lap being looked into.

‘It is one of the worst tracks for it, especially towards the end, when the tyres are getting really hot and are not as agile as at the beginning of the lap.

‘It is super hard to judge, particularly with the compressions.’ 

Mail Sport can reveal how the decision-making process works: in Geneva, a panel of five or six observers – comprising the recently formed Remote Access Operation, as F1’s answer to football’s VAR – watch the action live. 

They have access to cameras specifically positioned at the request of the FIA – unseen on TV – to assess potential track limit breaches, among other things. They also use last year’s actual gadget-laden race control desk. 

They can scroll through each corner frame-by-frame. This enables them to make a visual judgment on whether all four wheels have gone over a white line – the crucial fact – and then flag up suspicious instances to race control here in Spielberg.

Race director Wittich duly watches the footage and consults with his two or three senior colleagues before making the final call on any transgression.

Running wide was unable to dent the Dutchman's chance of claiming his fifth Austrian Grand Prix, as he prepares to start Sunday's race in Spielberg from pole position

Running wide was unable to dent the Dutchman’s chance of claiming his fifth Austrian Grand Prix, as he prepares to start Sunday’s race in Spielberg from pole position

Perez had no such luck as the Mexican driver crashed out at Q2 for the fourth time this season

Perez had no such luck as the Mexican driver crashed out at Q2 for the fourth time this season

An FIA spokesman said: ‘If it is marginal, we give the benefit of the doubt to the driver.’ 

The governing body would like to put gravel around the corners – to clearly mark where the white lines end – but MotoGP, who share the track, don’t want that. So drivers fudge it and officialdom scrambles.

It was a diabolical day for Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez: the out-of-form and confidence-shot Mexican had all his Q2 times deleted and will start tomorrow’s race on the team’s home track from 15th.

Lando Norris will start fourth for McLaren, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell fifth and 11th for Mercedes.