Verstappen: Only €5000 fine for Leclerc unsafe release is unfair

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took issue with ‘unfair’ Formula 1 steward after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc escaped a time penalty for an unsafe release during a German Grand Prix pitstop last weekend.

Ferrari were fined €5,000 euros ($6’000), instead of a time penalty for the driver, for sending the Monegasque into the path of Haas’s Romain Grosjean in a chaotic race at Hockenheim, with the cars making minor contact.

The stewards noted in their written decision that Leclerc drove out at an acute angle to avoid a tyre changer in the adjacent pit.

Verstappen was handed a five-second penalty for an unsafe release in May after he collided with Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas in the Monaco pitlane, costing the young Dutch driver a place on the podium.

Asked about the Hockenheim incident, Verstappen told reporters ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix that the decision was ‘completely wrong’.

“If they (teams) would get a fine (and not a time penalty), everybody would do it,” he said. “I think it’s not fair. To say that then they gave me that penalty (in Monaco) only purely because I touched, I think that’s also not fair,” added the 21-year-old.

“You are still releasing the car knowing that there is a car in the fast lane. Just a fine, it’s not fair…the fine? 5,000? I mean, it’s peanuts for a team. They really don’t care to pay that. I think it’s completely wrong to do that, especially if you talk about safety. Not correct.”

Formula 1 race director Michael Masi said after the Hockenheim race that no precedent had been set and each case was assessed on its own merits.

He also said that while Verstappen’s case had been listed as an unsafe release, the penalty was for the pitlane collision that ultimately denied Bottas second place.

Verstappen, who had to spend two days with stewards in January and February as punishment for a post-race Brazilian GP altercation with rival Esteban Ocon, said he had heard team managers had discussed the situation.

“I think also they saw that was maybe not the right way to go. If next time the guy with just the same gets a five-second penalty, then something is wrong with the system in my opinion,” he said.

“It cannot be once decided like this. For me, unsafe release being in rain, dry or snowing is the same. It’s unsafe. If it (the fine) is wrong or right only time will tell because maybe people take more risk and at some point we have to stop them,” added Verstappen.

Big Question: Is a monetary fine enough for an unsafe release in the pits?

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