Max Verstappen has had his fair share of run ins with the stewards over the course of his five seasons in Forumla One so far. The Dutchman is known for his staunch defending and aggressive overtakes, which can often result in the F1 race directors taking a closer look at his driving.
As a regular recipient of the stewards’ attention, Verstappen has a fair amount of first hand experience in how inconsistent their penalties can be. Something that he and a number of other drivers, fans and pundits have been discussing throughout the past couple of seasons.
It is well known that coming into this season the stewards were going to be taking a more relaxed approach on wheel to wheel racing, which certainly helped lead to some more exciting on track action (see battles between Verstappen and Leclerc at Austria and Britain as examples). However the inconsistencies in the deliverance of penalties continued and as Verstappen pointed out in a recent interview with Autosport, there is a clear reason as to why.
“Of course, you know, it’s a rulebook. But then still the stewards have a little bit of a say of what you’re actually going to apply.
When you go into like a Champions League match or a Premier League match, the ref can be different. Sometimes you can get away with a yellow card and then the other ref gives you a red, and you’re like ‘What was going on?’. It’s exactly the same, I think, in Formula 1.
“It’s very hard for them,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been in the room and experienced them handing penalties out. It’s not easy for them. They also don’t want to give penalties. Sometimes they just have to, the way the rules are written as well.
That’s also fine. When you’re on the wrong side of the penalty it’s always bad, unless you really did something bad and you can accept it, but when it’s like 50/50 and you get the penalty, you’re always gonna question.”
As Verstappen points out, the stewards change from race to race, meaning that incidents during race weekends are often being reviewed by a different group of people when compared to the week previous. While there is a set rulebook in place, the application of those rules can often be fairly subjective depending on what one individual depends to be, for example, a racing incident.
It seems as though the Red Bull driver is also slightly more understanding of the tough decisions that race stewards are required to make throughout the duration of a race weekend following the time that he spent with the Stewards during the 2019 Formula E Marrakech E-Prix.
However don’t let this newfound understanding from Verstappen lead you to believe that we won’t hear him calling out the stewards for controversial decisions come next season.