Max Verstappen has criticized the FIA’s penalty points system in the wake of the issue surrounding Lewis Hamilton’s practice starts at Sochi, insisting a driver should not be punished for a mistake made by a team.
Hamilton’s two practice starts which were conducted outside of the designated area at the end of the pitlane were sanctioned by the Russian Grand Prix stewards with a 10-second time penalty and two penalty points added to the Briton’s superlicence.
The second punishment was later removed by the stewards and replaced by a €25,000 fine levied on the Mercedes team.
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Commenting on the stewards’ verdict before the FIA’s U-turn, Verstappen – a driver who has often found himself in the past in the stewards’ line of sight – was critical of the decision which he viewed as “a bit harsh”.
“If you cause a crash it’s different, but the penalty Lewis got was already painful enough,” Verstappen said.
“I don’t know how many points you got – two points? – it’s a bit harsh, he’s up to 10 points. I mean, it was not correct where he stopped but penalty points for that, I’m not sure that’s correct.
“He was penalised enough by having this penalty in the race, so I don’t think you’d need to hand out penalty points for that.
“But I guess we’ll talk about it in the next briefing we have and see if something will happen or not.”
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel agreed with the Dutchman’s view, and added that penalty points should only be handed out for dangerous moves.
“I think if you really do some crazy moves on the track and some dangerous driving, then they’re justified,” Vettel said.
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“But if you’re speeding in the pit lane or minor infringements, it’s probably not the point to apply penalty points.”
However, Vettel’s team boss Mattia Binotto was less flexible than his driver and Verstappen on the subject.
“You may feel they are quite harsh, especially if you are the victim of it,” Binotto said.
“But on the other side, if you are not harsh sometimes, then you leave the door open to drivers to repeat it in the future.
“I think it’s never easy to judge, I think the FIA in that respect is doing a great job. So I think I’m overall happy,” said the Scuderia boss.
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