Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has accused the FIA and race stewards of favouring Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, after Max Verstappen was handed a penalty during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, whilst Hamilton was not – although remains under investigation.
Verstappen was given a five-second time penalty for forcing Hamilton off-track on Lap 27. That came after Verstappen also ran wide during the first restart, which saw him snatch the lead of the race, forcing Hamilton to take avoiding action and dropping him to third behind Esteban Ocon as a result.
Verstappen wasn’t penalised for that first off, but was forced to give the position back at the second restart. Hamilton was later seen forcing Verstappen wide at the same corner and escaped a penalty, albeit it was his first such offence.
The pair later clashed when Hamilton ran into the rear of Verstappen’s RB16B after the Dutchman dramatically slowed on the straight, in an effort to let Hamilton past as instructed by the FIA and his team.
That remains under investigation and Marko insists, despite Hamilton’s claims, that Verstappen didn’t brake test the Briton.
“Our engineers are preparing [the data] that we can prove Max was constant with his braking, he didn’t brake test like Hamilton said,” Marko is quoted as saying by Autosport in Jeddah.
“Then he crashed into our car, he unfortunately put two cuts in the rear tyre. That was so severe that we couldn’t attack anymore. We had to take speed out.
“That was the one thing. The next thing was at the second start, Hamilton was more than 10 car lengths behind [the Safety Car]. Vettel got penalised in Budapest when he did it. But with this manoeuvre he [Hamilton] was preparing his tyre better for the start.
“Then he pushed Max off, no reaction,” added Marko.
The Austrian, who is often outspoken, accused the FIA of bias: “We feel we are not treated the same. It’s a very one-sided decision-making here.”
He also denied that Verstappen needed to “cool down” with his driving, which Hamilton branded “over the limit”.
“I don’t think there is any reason why he should cool down. It’s the match between Mercedes and Red Bull, and the match between Max and [Lewis]. Just remember what happened in Silverstone, what’s happened in Budapest. Don’t forget that.”