Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen has been fined €50,000 for having “touched and examined” his and title rival Lewis Hamilton’s rear wings after Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying.
Verstappen was filmed in a fan video checking the top of his Red Bull’s rear wing and then the rear wing of Hamilton’s Mercedes following qualifying at Interlagos, apparently evaluating and comparing them.
This fan video was cited by the stewards as a central part of the investigation that “gave a clear picture of what occurred in parc ferme following the qualifying session”, along with testimony from Verstappen and the Red Bull team and onboard cameras.
Touching the rear wings breach of the international sporting code, which states in parc ferme conditions – which the two cars Verstappen touched were in after qualifying – “no operation, checking, tuning or repair is allowed unless authorised by the same officials or by the applicable regulations”.
Shortly after qualifying, a concern was identified with the top element of Hamilton’s rear wing, which made the matter even more sensitive. Hamilton has since been disqualified from the qualifying results.
The stewards verdict stated: “Verstappen exits the car, then moves to the rear of his car. He then takes his gloves off and puts his right hand at the slot-gap of the rear wing of his car.
“He then moves to car 44 [Hamilton’s] and repeats the exercise, touching the rear wing in two places, once on either side of the DRS actuation device, but on the bottom rear side of the wing, in the area of the slot gap and never near the actuator or the end fixation points.
“Clear, high definition video from the rear facing roll-hoop camera on car 44 shows that there is absolutely no movement of any of the wing elements on car 44 when Verstappen touches the back of the wing and the stewards are satisfied, from watching all the videos, his body position and the video of the wing, that there was insignificant force when Verstappen touched the wing.”
Red Bull and Verstappen used the fact that it’s commonplace for drivers to inspect and touch rival cars after qualifying sessions and races as part of their defence, with stewards conceding that this has not been uniformly policed.
But given the fact that Verstappen’s actions caused no “direct harm”, and with a lack of precedents, the decision was made only to fine him.
This indicates that it was not considered to have an impact on the state of Hamilton’s wing at the end of qualifying.
The stewards, including ex-F1 drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Roberto Moreno, also warned all teams that penalties for future infringements of the parc ferme rules might vary.
“It is clear to the stewards that it has become a habit of the drivers to touch cars after qualifying and the races,” said the verdict.
“This was also the explanation of Verstappen, that it was simply habit to touch this area of the car which has been a point of speculation in recent races between both teams.
“This general tendency has been seen as mostly harmless and so has not been uniformly policed. Nevertheless, it is a breach of the parc fermé regulation and has significant potential to cause harm.
“Considering the fact that no direct harm was caused in this case, in the opinion of the stewards, and that no earlier precedent of penalties for this exists – on the one hand; but that it is a breach of the regulation and has potential for serious consequences on the other, the stewards determine to take action in this case and order a fine of €50,000.
“The stewards further note that it is intended that all teams and drivers take notice that future breaches may incur different penalties from the stewards of those events.”
The Race understands that Verstappen touching the Mercedes’ rear wing was done entirely of his own volition and not as a result of any direct instruction to do so because of concerns about its legality.
Speaking before the verdict was issued, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner stressed it was not unusual for drivers to do this.
“As we see with many drivers, sometimes they have a look around [at] what’s going on with the other cars,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“So that’s all it was, a bit of inquisitiveness but nothing more.
“We’ve seen it, we’ve had drivers pull our clutch paddles, we’ve [had] heads in cockpits, front wings tested, tyres pushed, cars rolled round. So it’s not something that’s unusual.
“It’s never been brought up or even discussed previously.”