Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has confirmed that Max Verstappen will be left to pay a £42,500 fine out of his own pocket after touching Lewis Hamilton’s rear-wing following Friday qualifying in Sao Paulo. Hamilton would later face disqualification for his rear-wing troubles, which prompted suspicion from the Dutchman to the point where he breached FIA regulations.
Hamilton breezed through Friday qualifying, finishing almost half a second quicker than Verstappen who was his nearest challenger on the day.
After the conclusion of Q3, the Red Bull man parked up his car, went straight over to the Mercedes and appeared to reach out and touch the rear-wing.
Summoned to the stewards the following morning, Verstappen was held to be in breach of the FIA sporting code and was handed a £42,500 fine.
Depending on which way one looks at it, the Brit was not so lucky, skating through without a financial penalty but being forced to start Saturday’s sprint from the back of the grid.
With Verstappen starting that sprint from the front, Red Bull boss Christian Horner joked that his pole bonus would cover the fine.
However, Valtteri Bottas’ impressive start saw the Dutchman passed before the first corner, and he was unable to regain the position before 24 laps were up.
In the aftermath, Marko admitted that Verstappen’s punishment was harsh, but confirmed that he would have to pay the fine out of his own pocket.
“He has to pay it, yes,” Marko told Racingnews365.
“Hamilton’s case was clear. As for Max, that was a pretty harsh penalty, even though it doesn’t mean he’s going to lose his job.”
Despite Hamilton’s heroics, fighting from the back of the grid up to fifth during the sprint, he will still start 10th for Sunday’s race thanks to a five-place grid penalty dealt after a power unit change.
That presents Verstappen with a golden opportunity to extend his lead in the drivers’ championship, while Red Bull may also fancy their chances of pulling away in the Constructors’ standings.
The title race has been back-and-forth all year, with Hamilton pursuing a record-breaking eighth crown and Verstappen chasing his first.
Meanwhile, there has been no love lost between Mercedes and Red Bull who are still neck and neck at the business end of the season.
Hamilton’s alarming speed during qualifying aroused suspicion from their rival camp, which Horner promptly explained.
“Mercedes have had tremendous straight-line speed the last three or four races,” he admitted.
“I think it [disqualification] was the only conclusion the stewards could really come to. I think it’s a tough decision for them, but in that situation it’s black or white.”