FIA race director Michael Masi insists Max Verstappen’s comments following qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix did not lead to the grid penalty that cost him pole position.
Verstappen originally took pole position with his final lap of qualifying, setting the fastest final sector despite passing yellow flags for Valtteri Bottas’ crashed Mercedes at the final corner. With no investigation announced at that stage, Verstappen admitted in the post-qualifying press conference that he had not backed off, with the FIA’s summons only being announced some time later and leading to a three-place grid penalty.
Masi said the comments “100 percent” had nothing to do with the investigation, adding: “By the time I had referred it to the stewards and told the stewards the matter was to be looked at… it was after that that Max’s comments came to light.”
Additionally, Masi also explained why it took so long for Verstappen to be summoned – as well as why Lewis Hamilton was not penalized for passing the incident at speed – as he undertook a process following Bottas’ crash and then was held up by a separate investigation.
“The yellow flags at each point – so we’re following all the traditional flags of single yellow, double yellow, green flag, white flag, slippery surface red and yellow – are all operated by the marshal operator at that point,” Masi said. “So they each have a panel, press a button and bang that activates it.
“Safety Car, red flag, VSC is all operated from race control. So effectively all those that have to be activated simultaneously at all points are operated by us at race control. With the race yesterday, Valtteri’s impact severed the chord from the guy pressing the button so he could have pressed it as many times as he wanted but the impact severed the chord. At that point there’s no ability for the light panel to get a signal. So that’s that part of it.
“With regards to the other part we were actually looking at it straight away,” Masi continued. “But with the sequence of what happened the primary thing was Valtteri’s health, getting the medical car out there, making sure he was all OK. Being at the end of the session that was one part. The second part was then once that happened getting the car back to the team.
“The third element is repairing the circuit for the next activity so as my role as the safety delegate I went out there to make sure that everything was there in position. Get back to the office and start working through the data that exists and looked over all three cars that were after Valtteri’s incident – which was Lewis, Sebastian (Vettel) and Max – and reviewed all three of them. So once I did that and looked at all the video evidence and the data…
“Lewis’ one was quite easy – there was no yellow flag, even though the marshal did an amazing job at that point and showed the yellow flag relatively quickly, there was none for Lewis. But for Sebastian and Max there was.
“All of that happened. The stewards were in the middle of a hearing with Toro Rosso and Renault with the alleged unsafe pit release, so they can’t issue a summons to attend a hearing – which is the formal notification – so as soon as that hearing concluded with Renault and Toro Rosso, they wrote up the summons. I effectively reported the incident to them at that point once there was an incident to report.”