Formula 1 steward Garry Connelly says penalising Max Verstappen at the 2017 United States Grand Prix was one of the toughest decisions he’s ever been involved with.
Verstappen passed Kimi Raikkonen for third place on the last lap of the Austin race but the Red Bull driver was quickly deemed by the stewards to have gone off the circuit and gained a lasting advantage while making the move.
Immediately after the race he was given a five-second penalty that reversed the positions to see the Dutchman replaced by Raikkonen in the podium ceremony at the last minute, triggering a furore on social media among fans.
Speaking to fellow stewards around the world in an FIA web conference on Saturday, Connelly cited the Verstappen case when stressing that any decisions should always consider the consequences for parties who might have lost out.
“In deciding we must demonstrate the responsibility to consider not just the side of the alleged offender,” Connelly said.
“It’s important to think about those who’ve been impacted as well. And I want to give a classic example here that sticks in my mind and my fellow stewards at that event.
“It was the 2017 US Grand Prix, it was the last lap of the race. And Max Verstappen performed a brilliant move, an amazing move, on Kimi Raikkonen. And he overtook him on I think it was the third last turn.
“We had Mika Salo as our driver steward. And Mika is extremely quick on seeing what’s going on, on a race track.
“And he said to us immediately that was a brilliant move by Max, but he was off the track by about a metre on the inside of the corner. He left the track to overtake.
“We went back and looked at the vision, and it was very, very clear within a minute of us looking at that.
“And with my fellow stewards in the room, Radovan Novak, Mika Salo and Dennis Dean, it was a difficult decision, because we had to pull Max Verstappen off third place, off the podium, and replace him with Kimi Raikkonen.”
Connelly recalled the uproar that the penalty created on social media.
“Boy, did we ever cop a lot of criticism,” he said. “We were public enemies number one in the Netherlands, and all the Red Bull fans around the world were up in arms. And a lot of other people as well.
“But we also looked at it from another perspective, in that another driver had been robbed of his rightful position, because Max couldn’t have overtaken Kimi if he’d have complied with the rules.
“And to comply with the rules is very simple, you cannot go off track to overtake someone, you cannot leave the track and gain an advantage. And this was a lasting advantage. He went from fourth to third by overtaking one metre off the track.
“So when it comes to a difficult decision, yes, you feel sorry for the person that you may have to penalise.
“But you also have to think about the other competitors that are affected by the move, or by the action of the competitor that you are investigating.”
Connelly made it clear that he has no regrets about the call made that day.
“I think that’s something that always sticks with me, that was a probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to take with my colleagues.
“But I still believe we did the right thing, we took the right decision.
“And I’m pretty sure if you speak to Max Verstappen today, he’ll agree that in retrospect, it was the right decision.”