Formula 1 legned Jacques Villeneuve hit out at Max Verstappen for the Red Bull driver’s aggressive defensive move when racing with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the United States Grand Prix. The incident occurred during the sprint race, and Villeneuve – the 1997 F1 world champion – believes the Dutchman must be punished.
The United States Grand Prix saw some controversial decisions by the FIA – and Verstappen was at the heart of it yet again. During the Sprint race, the newly crowned three-time world champion made an aggressive move to defend his pole position from Leclerc.
Although the 26-year-old ultimately won the race, questions lingered over the daring maneuver. Leclerc and Verstappen started the Sprint race on the front row, and the Ferrari got off to a great start to edge its front wheels alongside the dominant Red Bull.
As the duo approached the left-hand hairpin at Turn 1, Verstappen appeared to be steering the Moengasque star completely across the pit lane exit. As a result, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took his opportunity to attack and pass Leclerc, who would not be able to take the Brit back over while Verstappen became the only driver to win three Sprint races.
While Leclerc felt the maneuver was hard but fair, Villeneuve took a different approach. He believes Verstappen’s move was far too aggressive to be ignored by the stewards, with the move ultimately costing Leclerc valuable points.
“Leclerc was pushed off the track, it’s too much,” the 52-year-old told F1 TV. “It wasn’t necessary.
“I don’t understand why the first lap should be evaluated differently, a dirty maneuver or pushing a car to the limits of the track are things that should be investigated.”
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It is the latest in a growing number of incidents against Verstappen’s name, with the FIA appearing to be more lenient towards the Dutchman. At qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix last month, Verstappen was summoned to discuss three different impeding incidents in which he was involved but the FIA opted not to sanction him.
Earlier this month at the Qatar Grand Prix, Hamilton was fined $52,500 (£43,350) for crossing the race track after a crash. Former F1 driver and Sky F1 analyst Karun Chandhok quickly pointed out how Verstappen had escaped punishment himself when he did the same move during the dramatic and controversial 2021 season.
Verstappen has undoubtedly grown and matured since the 2021 campaign when he crashed repeatedly, but incidents like in Austin continue to follow him. The FIA consistently fail to adequately intervene, leaving fans – and legends like Villeneuve – frustrated.
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