Masi explains Red Bull offer over Verstappen penalty

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Masi explains Red Bull offer over Verstappen penalty

Formula 1

Masi explains Red Bull offer over Verstappen penalty


FIA race director Michael Masi says his discussions with Red Bull over a potential penalty for Max Verstappen during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix were “very normal” but delayed by safety concerns.

Verstappen retained the lead at the first restart of the race by going off track at Turn 1, with the way he rejoined slowing Lewis Hamilton and allowing Esteban Ocon through to second place. A crash soon after brought out the red flag again and during that stoppage, Masi offered Red Bull the choice of dropping behind Hamilton on the grid for the race restart or potentially being investigated by the stewards, but the manner and timing of his messages drew criticism.

“I wouldn’t call it a ‘deal’, as from a race director’s perspective, I have no authority to instruct the teams to do anything in that situation,” Masi said. “I can give them an offer, the ability to do that, but the choice is theirs. The stewards are obviously empowered to give penalties, but I can give them my perspective. That’s why I offered them the ability to give that position up.

“It was a result of the red flag that came about due to the incident at Turn 3. The priority with any red flag situation is, a) to make sure the drivers are safe, and then to activate the marshals’ recovering with cleaning the track and so forth. So, it probably seemed a bit elongated compared to normal, however it is very much a normal discussion that takes place.

“When I saw it happen at Turn 2, I immediately suggested to the stewards that I am going to give the opportunity [to Red Bull] to give that place back. The red flag obviously ensued very quickly thereafter and that was absolutely the priority before we got going again. Being as we were under the suspension, it was the ability to effectively correct that before we went racing going again.

“It’s very much a normal discussion that happens regularly on a number of occasions and has had all year, and previously.”

With Masi overseeing a race that involved numerous incidents between Verstappen and Hamilton, the Australian believes their driving is a result of the tight title fight, but expects a busy drivers’ briefing in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

“It is an intense championship battle between two fantastic drivers and two great teams. So that’s part of an intense championship battle on both sides.

“I think there’s always discussion on various things, so if there is a lot (to talk about) that’s part of why we have a drivers’ meeting to have an open and frank discussion between us and exchange views.”