On the extremely slippery Vegas track, Verstappen went deep into the first corner, forcing the Ferrari driver to go off the track.
The incident was investigated by the FIA stewards and Red Bull decided to impose a five-second penalty rather than handing the position back to Leclerc. Therefore, Verstappen enjoyed the fresh air for the first stint as he tried to open the gap to compensate for the penalty he received in the first pit stop.
While Leclerc thought it was right to punish Verstappen, he argued that it would be fairer to force him to give back his place.
“Frankly, I think he deserved the five-second penalty. He served his time and that was the penalty that should have been given,” Leclerc said.
“But I think it would be better for the FIA to ask to give back the place in such cases, because I think it is quite easy to protect the tires in clean air, which creates an advantageous situation. But yes, it has happened.” said.
Photo: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23
Verstappen initially refused to accept his penalty and sarcastically told the team over the radio to ‘give his regards to the stewards’. However, he later admitted that the punishment was justified.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the penalty was ‘marginal’ because stewards generally take a more lenient approach to first-lap incidents. He claimed that this was why Red Bull did not ask Verstappen to give his place back to Leclerc.
“I think it was a split-half affair. They went deep into the first corner with Max slightly ahead,” Horner said.
“We thought we should let them race in the first few corners or the first lap, so we didn’t ask Max to give the position back.”
“So when Max got a penalty it meant he had to do it the harder way. It was really marginal but we accepted it.” said.