The Grand Prix weekend in Monte Carlo could not have been more surprising and heartbreaking. Not the usual processional fare we’re used to seeing. From Jenson Button scoring McLaren-Honda’s first points of the season, to Mercedes miscue on Hamilton’s strategy. What led to all this drama? The crash of Max Verstappen caused Hamilton to question his tire strategy with his engineers and inevitably lost him the race. At least that’s what everyone besides the young driver has to say.
Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen was having the time of his young life in Monaco. The inexperienced yet skillful 17 year old had never driven the winding streets of Monaco before. He managed to pull off 10th in qualifying to place him between the two Lotus drivers, Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. Max was having fantastic race. The Dutch driver climbed positions while keeping his composure. It’s the perfect formula for dancing in Monaco.
When lap 61 came around, Verstappen was right on Grosjean’s tail. The two had been locked in a battle for position for several laps. That battle ended just a few turns into the next lap. Verstappen attempted to make a move on Grosjean on the inside of turn one. It appeared as if Verstappen might succeed in his attack until he missed the usual braking point, only to collide with Romain’s left rear wheel. Max found himself in the wall, fortunately able to walk away from the incident.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the soap opera we call Formula 1 without drama. Max Verstappen his since claimed Romain had “brake tested” him. This means Romain braked earlier than usual, causing Max to back off and think twice about overtaking. “I was charging through the field before I got brake tested and had a hard crash into Turn 1!” It’s easy to call out the new guy for being irresponsible and even easier for Lotus to claim Romain did not brake test Max.
I agree with Lotus. Verstappen claimed he did nothing wrong. Even if you were to watch the wreck over and over again as I have, it seems as if Max over-estimated his ability to succeed or he was distracted. It’s easy to hold off braking for a split second if you think you might pull it off.
Although he’s still unrepentant, claiming he did nothing wrong, it’s too obvious for Verstappen to say it wasn’t his fault. The Lotus trackside operations director, Alan Permane, has looked over data that has proven Grosjean actually braked five meters later than he had on the previous lap. There was absolutely no way it was Romain’s fault. The FIA accepted the data. Max was deemed responsible for the incident. His accident led to Lewis Hamilton’s blunder while under the safety car.
The young Verstappen has been given a five place grid penalty for this weekend’s race in Montreal, Canada. He has also received two penalty points on his racing license. It will effect his ever growing performance with the Red Bull team. A driver that young will never fly under the radar. Max now has a taste of what it’s like to be a part of Formula 1 politics.
Welcome to the pinnacle of motorsport.