MEXICO CITY (AP) — Max Verstappen was unrepentant Thursday about his driving moves and his choice of words.
Speaking ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, Verstappen insisted his pass on Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on the last lap of last weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix was a good one, and that he shouldn’t have been penalized by race officials and denied a third-place finish.
Immediately after the Texas race, Verstappen’s Red Bull team harshly criticized the penalty. Verstappen called the race decision “stupid” and referred to an “idiot” race steward. Verstappen had bolted through the field to near the front after starting 16th.
“I think after the race, emotions are high, especially when you are taken off the podium, which I think I deserved,” Verstappen said. “I think it’s quite normal I would be quite angry. I could have used different words.”
Verstappen was penalized because all four of his tires were off track for a split second during the pass. Verstappen insisted again Thursday that other drivers had made similar moves on the edge of the track throughout the race weekend without penalty. He also said the move came in part to avoid a contact with Raikkonen.
Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting defended the penalty as required for leaving the track to gain a “lasting advantage.” The move came so late in the race that Raikkonen had no chance to recover before the finish line.
“Technically, it was quite simple, emotionally not so much,” Whiting said. “The only time it was absolutely determined that a driver gained an advantage, the driver was penalized.”
Whiting said he hadn’t heard of the explanation that Verstappen tried to avoid Raikkonen.
“I don’t think Kimi shut the door. It was taking the line Max should have expected,” Whiting said.
A similar situation happened to Verstappen at the Mexican Grand Prix last year, when it was determined he left the track to gain an advantage on Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel late in the race. The resulting penalty knocked him out of a third-place finish.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said he likes the 20-year-old Verstappen’s feisty nature a driver.
“He handles himself really well, I think. He’s got this great fire within him,” Hamilton said. “He’s a bright light and we need to allow that to shine.”
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