Christian Horner lamented criticism of Max Verstappen ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, insisting that F1 should “encourage the Dutchman not to criticize”.
Verstappen evaded punishment at last weekend’s São Paulo Grand Prix for an opinion-divisive defensive move against Lewis Hamilton.
The review was declined prior to the second practice session at the Losail International Circuit after the new video evidence was not considered significant.
Horner said the rules of engagement had become difficult to understand for drivers pushed off the track, given the season’s penalties. In an interview with Sky Sports F1, Horner replied: “I don’t think that’s the case [difficult to understand].
“Do you think [Valtteri] Bottas is over the limit? Do you think Carlos Sainz exceeded the limit on the first lap?
“These were all incidents where similar things happened and I think it’s getting so much attention because it’s the two protagonists of the World Cup who are trying.
“In Mexico, Max clearly demonstrated that you can fit in on the outside.
“What you had in Brazil, Lewis was in a far superior car in terms of straight speed. The fact that Max made 58 laps – no one could last longer than three against Lewis.
“He braked right at the limit, Lewis too. If he’d done what Checo [Perez] did in the first round, he would have undercut him and let Max go far, so I don’t quite understand why you’re so hard on Max.
“We want a fair playing field and a fair, clean fight in the last three races. We had a phenomenal championship. They haven’t had this in seven years, so Toto [Wolff] getting nervous.
“That’s why he swears at the camera, that’s why he throws some F-bombs around and it’s fantastic. We put them under pressure and that’s what the sport screams for. Instead of criticizing Max,” you should encourage him. “
Dismissal of the review “beautiful” – Verstappen
Verstappen finished the second training session in Qatar as the third fastest, ahead of rival Hamilton, but a third of a second slower than Bottas’s top time, with AlphaTauris Pierre Gasly the second fastest.
To dismiss the review, Verstappen stated, “It’s fine, but it’s to be expected.”
Commenting on the practice itself, he added: “It was the first time in the evening so it was important to understand how the car would react.
“Quite a switch between the medium and the soft tire for me. So the soft tire wasn’t great, but it’s also here for the first time, so there’s a lot to understand.
“You have to learn the track a bit, but it was a lot of fun to be honest. It’s a really cool track.”