There’s no denying it, Max Verstappen showed his age and immaturity after qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix.
Verstappen loves it around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track, having won at the circuit on the last two previous occasions, and during qualifying on Saturday it appeared that he might be on course to take his third straight win in Mexico.
It was all looking good for the 22-year-old as he took provisional pole after the first flying laps in Q3, but just as the chequered flag came out, Valtteri Bottas crashed his Mercedes into the wall on the last corner.
Verstappen had been behind Bottas on the track and so had to pass the scene of the accident to finish his lap and when he did so, he set a time of 1m14.758s, going even faster than his first attempt.
Not only that, but Verstappen also set a personal best in the final sector, a section of the track where yellow flags were being shown, and many wondered if the Red Bull driver would receive a penalty.
The FIA looked at it and swiftly determined that no investigation was necessary, meaning Verstappen retained his pole for Sunday’s race, but the Red Bull driver then went and ruined all of his hard work moments later in the FIA press conference.
When asked if he was aware of Bottas’ accident and if he backed off for the yellow flag, Verstappen responded by saying: “I was aware that Valtteri crashed.
He was then asked if he backed off, having failed to answer that part of the question first time round and he said: “It didn’t really look like it, did it? No.”
It is worth remembering that yellow flags are not just there to warn drivers on the circuit that there has been an accident.
They are there to alert drivers to an issue on the circuit and for them to slow down so those involved in the incident are safe and it also ensures that the marshalls are working in as safe as an environment as possible.
Verstappen’s comments showed a hint of arrogance in the press conference, and when asked why he didn’t back off from a safety perspective, he only made matters worse for himself.
“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it?” Verstappen said when asked why he didn’t slow down?
He was then asked if it doesn’t matter from a safety perspective, and the Dutchman’s response was: “Do we have to go there? To safety?
“I think we know what we are doing- otherwise we would not be driving and F1 car.
“It’s qualifying and, yeah, you go for it.
“But like I said before, if they want to delete the lap, then delete the lap.”
Although the FIA have since stated that they were already re-investigating the incident when Verstappen made these controversial comments, what he said would have done him no favours, and he was subsequently awarded with a three place grid penalty.
Some people will say that Verstappen should have kept quiet, but on the other hand, it was nice to see that Verstappen was completely open and honest, even if his attitude towards the situation could and should have been better.
There was no point in Verstappen trying to hide the fact that he hadn’t slowed down, as the data is on the car and it would have been seen at some point in any event.
Verstappen would in no doubt have been aware of this fact before going in to the press conference and so there was no point to hide the truth, and had he lied, then there would have likely been even more serious consequences for him to face in addition to a grid penalty.
But while it is commendable that Verstappen was open about failing to slow down, it was his attitude about the situation, his almost arrogant approach, as if to say ‘why should I slow down’, that irked so many.
As it was mentioned earlier, yellow flags are there for the safety of marshalls and drivers alike, and if drivers cannot adhere to those rules then they shouldn’t be on the circuit, for they are putting other people’s lives in danger.
Verstappen is right – Formula 1 drivers do know what they are doing – but that doesn’t stop them from making mistakes, just as Bottas did moments earlier.
Having been in the series for five years, Verstappen is considered a veteran, and so he should know better, but it is also easy to forget that he is only 22-years-old and still one of the youngest drivers on the grid.
The comments he made in Saturday’s press conference don’t resemble that of a driver with veteran status, but does fit the image of an immature young driver.
It isn’t the first time that Verstappen has been confrontational and you only have to cast your mind
back to Brazil last year when he had a scuffle with Esteban Ocon in parc ferme after Ocon had hit Verstappen’s Red Bull, dashing his hopes of a victory.
These are the actions of an immature individual who needs to calm down and think before he acts.
He has done so well stepping up as a team leader at Red Bull this season, and has put in some incredible drives over the year, but once again, his actions off the track have come back to bite him.
Hopefully, Verstappen will learn from this and think about his conduct in the future, for he is an amazing talent and will no doubt end up a world champion at some point.
But, he’s not a champion yet, and when it comes to safety, nobody, not even a champion can be excused.