Max Verstappen opens up on ‘bad blood’ with stewards after 2021 controversy

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Max Verstappen insists there is no “bad blood” between him and F1 stewards despite heading into the 2022 campaign on seven penalty points. The world champion could even be in danger of a one-race suspension in 2022 if he incurs five more points between the opening race in Bahrain on March 20 and the Italian Grand Prix in September, which comes the day before the first of his penalties expires.

Since the penalty point ruling was introduced in 2014, no driver has of yet triggered the number that merits a ban.

It was in Monza last year where Verstappen was deemed responsible for an on-track collision with Lewis Hamilton, with the British driver’s halo saving him from a potentially catastrophic head collision with the Dutchman’s Red Bull vehicle.

As a result, the 24-year-old was given a grid penalty for the next race in Russia, and also received one in Qatar after failing to adhere to yellow flag instructions in qualifying.

In Saudi Arabia, Verstappen was given a 10-second time penalty and was later disciplined again for appearing to to slow down in front of Hamilton, causing damage to his rival’s mirror, having been ordered to give up his lead by officials.

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Following the race in Jeddah, Verstappen claimed he was “treated differently” to other F1 drivers, but has now moved to play down any perceived animosity between him and race officials.

“Overall, I had a really good relationship with the stewards, even when I saw them. There is no bad blood there,” he said.

He also argued it was natural for a team to assess, and ultimately seek to improve, relations with officials.

“There are always things, for example we are also looking at how we can improve as a team for next season. It’s quite natural to look at everything.”

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Cynics may attribute Verstappen’s apparent climbdown over his treatment to what transpired at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where he took his maiden title in highly controversial circumstances.

He and Hamilton went into the race level on points, but it was the Mercedes man who appeared in control in the closing stages as he held an 11-second lead.

However, a crash to Williams driver Nicholas Latifi prompted a safety car, and then under pressure from Red Bull boss Christian Horner, race director Michael Masi then appeared to alter his original instructions to drivers in order to speed up the procedure and ensure one final lap of racing.

That allowed Verstappen the chance to overtake Hamilton on that dramatic final lap, and although the Silver Arrows duly had two protests over the procedure dismissed, debate has continued to rage with an FIA investigation into what transpired currently ongoing.

The champion himself, however, now claims there was a previous precedent set for Masi’s actions.

He believes a similar procedure was followed at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, when the lapped Nikita Mazepin was permitted to overtake the safety car, which was then called in quickly afterwards.

The controversy has cast doubts on Hamilton’s future in the sport, with the 37-year-old seemingly awaiting the outcome of the enquiry before deciding.

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