Horner chats to Red Bull ‘rules man’ over concerns FIA broke rules
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Christian Horner had a behind-the-scenes chat with key figures at Red Bull to determine whether the FIA violated their own regulations in qualifying at the Miami Grand Prix. Championship leader Max Verstappen will begin the race ninth on the grid after he was denied the opportunity to set a time on his second attempt after Charles Leclerc’s crash.
Red flags were brought out after the yellow flags were upgraded 22 seconds later, with one minute and 36 seconds left on the clock. Race director Niels Wittich decided against restarting the session, despite the quicker drivers on the grid lapping at one minute and 22 seconds.
Red Bull may have felt that Verstappen should have been given an opportunity to better his time and potentially start higher up the grid, as Sky Sports pundit Ted Kravitz explained a conversation that was held between Horner and the team’s “rules man” Jonathan Wheatley.
“Why couldn’t we get it going again?” Kravitz said in his post-qualifying notebook on Sky Sports. “Time was ticking down. Once he saw Leclerc’s crash, arguably had he pressed the red flag right then, possibly that would have been enough for an out-lap for a 1m28 lap. Ten seconds for an out-lap. Arguably not, but possible.
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“But that’s not what happened. Wittich had to go through his procedures, which he did, check that the situation merited a red flag, which it did, and by that time there was only [1m36] left. It wasn’t possible to do the out-lap. That’s why he said the session will not resume. Difficult call because that meant Verstappen wasn’t able to do another lap.”
Verstappen admitted that he is still targeting a minimum finish of P2 on Sunday, but questions will still be lingering over whether he should have had another chance of setting another time in qualifying.
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“After qualifying, Christian Horner and Adrian Newey were on the pitwall asking Jonathan Wheatley – the rules man at Red Bull – whether that was legit, basically whether the Race Director could say under what circumstances the session would not resume,” Kravitz further explained.
“Obviously they were happy that [Sergio] Perez was on pole. If you were cynical you could say they wanted Verstappen on pole instead, but I don’t think that they think that way. In fact, I know they don’t think that way. They are very even-handed between their two drivers. What they did want, clearly, was for both drivers to be 1-2. For that to happen, you needed the session to resume.
“Horner and Wheatley wanted to understand if it was in the race director’s gift to say that the session would not resume – which, in fact, it was. Once they sorted that out, it was the definition of bittersweet for Red Bull.”
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