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Max Verstappen's F1 penalty hits a down note on a day of highs

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Max Verstappen's F1 penalty hits a down note on a day of highs
Oct 23, 2017, 4:03 AM

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Max Verstappen, voted Driver of the Day by watching F1 fans before his pass on Kimi Raikkonen.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for Max Verstappen, voted Driver of the Day by watching F1 fans before his pass on Kimi Raikkonen.

The Dutchman put on a spirited performance from 16th on the grid to climb to fourth and challenge for the podium in the final laps.

Kimi Raikkonen was fuel saving and there for the taking, but the FIA Stewards judged that Verstappen had taken an unfair advantage from cutting the corner in overtaking him and that he should be handed a five second penalty, which dropped him back to fourth.

"The Stewards examined video evidence and concluded that car 33 did leave the track, with all 4 wheels clearly off the track by at least half a metre, and overtook car 7 in doing so. The driver did gain a lasting advantage," said the Stewards report.

This is one of those calls that polarizes fans and F1 insiders alike, but certainly there were plenty of racers of the view that this was an unfortunate call by the stewards. Track limits were a bit of a question mark all weekend, it must be said with plenty of cars running off limits at Turn 19 and other places. It struck a jarring note that the one that was called out was one at the end of a scintillating race. Red Bull Boss Christian Horner said it was am "appalling decision", which confused and disappointed the US audiences, where F1 is trying to grow.

It put a down note on what had been an extraordinary day with some sublime moments of racing, which had made F1 look very accessible and entertaining. But rules is rules, I guess.

My personal highlight was the pass by Vettel on Bottas, where he went through the middle of the gap between the Finn and a backmarker being lapped. “It was all very improvised,” he said afterwards with a smile.

It was reminiscent of Nigel Mansell’s pass on Ayrton Senna in Budapest in 1989, using a moment’s hesitation as he caught a backmarker to pounce. Although reasonably savvy on F1 history, Vettel wasn’t aware of that move which happened when he was only two years old. He has gone to check it out.

A race which features two overtakes for the lead is quite rare in current F1; both were pulled off by Lewis Hamilton. First he made up for getting jumped by Vettel at the start to ease past him a few laps later as the Ferrari was clearly struggling for pace. The lack of practice time on Friday hurt Vettel, even if he argues that at this stage of the season they know the car well enough.

It was great that Verstappen and Red Bull disrupted the race by making a second stop for super soft tyres, when it appeared that several cars ahead including Vettel and Bottas were struggling on the soft tyres.

Ferrari reacted and pitted Vettel, their championship challenger, but not Raikkonen. Given that it took Verstappen until the last lap to catch Raikkonen, who had been behind Vettel anyway, it’s debatable whether that was the right call. But we will analyse that decision in detail in the UBS Race Strategy Report on Tuesday.

Young guns impress in midfield scrap

Another cameo I really enjoyed was the battle between two of the exciting young drivers on their way up in F1, which was well captured by the TV feed. Carlos Sainz, on debut with Renault and Esteban Ocon who had a very strong weekend of qualifying and race ahead of Sergio Perez (despite a sickness on Saturday) really caught the eye. Sainz adapted quickly to the Renault and scored a result on his first outing; one place lower than Jolyon Palmer’s best F1 result.

Ocon continues to impress and the last few races he's really stepped up. There is clearly a lot more to come from him.

F1 gets the Superbowl treatment

Is this what Chase Carey meant when he talked about turning each F1 Grand Prix into the Superbowl?

From all the razzamatazz on the start line with the F1 drivers being introduced, through to the fireworks on the track, this was an eye catching Grand Prix.

Not everything in the build up worked to perfection, but it was fun to try something different in a country like the USA. It wouldn’t work in some venues, but I guess we will find out if Liberty Media try it out elsewhere.

"I think they just made the SuperBowl here, they made the race, I think the entertainment was the best I think we’ve seen, with the drum line, the whole band," said Hamilton. "Yeah, I think the whole set-up. It was great to see something different."

It was very funny in the press conference after the race, when the top three drivers were asked if they had enjoyed the pre-race theatre. Lewis Hamilton said that he had; Sebastian Vettel wasn’t so sure.

I asked Kimi Raikkonen for his thoughts, “What about you Kimi, that sort of thing is right up your street, isn’t it?”

Fair play to him, he was self deprecating in his reply, the essence of which was that he can cope with it if it’s done well, but if he had a choice he would probably opt out!

What did you think of the pre-race build up in F1 US Grand Prix

What did you think of the entertainment and the racing in the US Grand Prix? Was Verstappen hard done by? Leave your comments in the section below

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