The Day After: Max’s Masterclass

He may have had to suffer the wait of a lengthy stewards’ investigation, but in the end, nothing could take away from Max Verstappen’s stunning performance in Austria on Sunday.

It took a lot longer than we expected, but Max Verstappen is your 2019 Austrian GP winner, and deservingly so.

From P7 at the end of lap one, only to pass Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc and finish atop the podium, Verstappen was utterly brilliant in a performance that is sure to be talked about long after his career is over.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Max Verstappen performance if there wasn’t a healthy dose of controversy, and we certainly got that in his coming-together with Leclerc. Let’s be honest though, it shouldn’t have been as big of a deal as it was, really.

At best a case of Verstappen claiming the corner and Leclerc refusing to concede it, at worst the sort of racing incident that can happen with wheel-to-wheel racing, there never should have been the need for a stewards’ enquiry, let alone a three-hour one.

Unfortunately, the current state of rule-enforcement in F1 has made such convoluted, unnecessary processes the norm. Assuming the stewards didn’t spend those immediate hours post-race yukking it up in the beer garden, they must’ve been seriously considering handing Verstappen a penalty, even if most-everyone with an ounce of petrol in their veins knew it was unwarranted. Even if they ultimately arrived at the correct result, that’s still very concerning.

Indeed, I think it’s fair to ask if things would’ve been different had there been no incident with Vettel in Canada. Part of me feels Verstappen only “got away with it” because the four stewards here in Austria knew there would be hell to pay (not to mention several thousand angry Dutchmen to answer to!) if they repeated the black-and-white interpretation of the rules from three weeks ago.

Conspiracy theory aside, this ordeal is further proof that the FIA needs to go back to the drawing-board with their current set of regulations. No, that doesn’t mean drivers should be free to dive-bomb as they please, but there needs to be an understanding that they can take measured risks – even if it creates contact – and not always fear punishment for doing so.

In any case, congratulations to Verstappen, Red Bull, and perhaps most notably of all, Honda. This sport has endured more than enough negativity in recent times, and what they accomplished on Sunday was the perfect antidote to all of it. Mercedes may still own the season, but we’ll always have this one race where Max turned the tables on everyone, and that sort of beautiful improbability is why we go racing.

Quick Hits

Hats off to the Dutch fans for their incredible support on Sunday. Whatever you feel about their man Verstappen, hearing them sent into raptures only added to the broadcast.

Another day, another dose of misfortune for Sebastian Vettel, this time with a his bungled pitstop. If the German hasn’t already, he might want to look into hiring a witch doctor.

If it weren’t for Verstappen, driver of the day would have to go to Carlos Sainz at McLaren. Starting 19th on the grid and managing to come home P8, the Spaniard could not have been more impressive. I wonder if Red Bull regret letting him go?

Driver of the Day: Max Verstappen

Like there was any other choice. Recovered from seventh at the end of the first lap to win the race in the best drive of his still very young career.

Worst of the Day: Pierre Gasly

On the other side of the coin, Gasly’s chances of staying with Red Bull once again took a hit. As if it wasn’t bad enough to be lapped by your teammate, it came despite the Frenchman leading at the end of lap one. I take absolutely no joy in saying this, but I’d be surprised if he’s in the car come Silverstone.

Quote of the Day:

“It’s hard racing, otherwise we have to stay at home. If those things are not allowed in racing, then what’s the point of being in F1.” – Max Verstappen, on his coming together with Charles Leclerc. I’d say the fame, money and opportunity to drive the fastest cars on the planet are all good reasons to be in F1, but I see his point!

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