In the aftermath of a contentious qualifying round at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix in 2023, Max Verstappen received a couple of reprimands instead of the expected grid penalties. The Red Bull driver had caused disruptions on the track; once by blocking Yuki Tsunoda (which the stewards blamed largely on Red Bull for inadequate communication), and another by impeding a line of cars in the pitlane while waiting to make a space before getting back in the race.
Rival teams were surprised at Verstappen’s light punishment, generally expecting grid penalties for such behavioral infractions. Pierre Gasly, in particular, has stated he will approach the FIA during the Suzuka weekend for clarification on Verstappen’s case. Likewise, McLaren‘s Lando Norris also voiced his disgruntlement.
Norris trod lightly in his criticisms, telling F1 Initiative: “I don’t want to say too much, because I’ll just create controversy.” But he insisted the obstruction on the track should have resulted in a penalty and that it’s not just about the team’s communication but also the driver’s responsibility to keep an eye on the mirrors. “You’ve got nothing else to do the whole lap but look in your mirrors, and it seems like a lot of people struggle to do that.”
Continuing, he called for stricter penalties for obstruction, commenting, “It ruins your lap it ruins your qualifying, it put Yuki out in qualifying, and he was P1 in Q1.” According to him, this lack of concern for other drivers has been rife throughout the season. Norris strongly emphasized the driver’s role in preventing these incidents, arguing they have little else to do but ensure a safe race track. He hinted at his astonishment at this constant lack of skill in Formula 1 racing.
Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc agreed that communication with FIA on penalties is crucial. Hamilton, who was in the pit lane when the incidents occurred, shared: “We always push and work as closely as we can with the FIA to have consistency and there is some variation, so we have to continue to work on it for sure.” Leclerc chimed in to express his surprise particularly about the pitlane incident, cautioning of potentially detrimental situations arising from these lapses in future.
Verstappen downplayed the controversies by stating that he recounted his side of the story and left the decision to stewards. “Every single instance is different,” Verstappen noted. “And the only thing I can say about Singapore is that I explained what happened when I was sitting in the car, and the information that was given to me, and that’s the only thing I can do. And then it’s up to the stewards to make that call.”
Meanwhile, Alex Albon took issue with a five-second penalty given to Sergio Perez for pushing him off the road, thereby costing him a valuable eighth place in the Singapore race. He questioned whether the punishment was sufficient, noting: “For example, you can take my incident with Checo when he has a five second penalty. It’s consistent with everything else. But is it really fair? Maybe not. So I do think there needs to be flexibility in some ways.”