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Max Verstappen

The 'grey area' exploited by Verstappen in recent races

With Safety Car restarts occurring in the first two races of the 2022 F1 season - as well as the finale of 2021 - Jolyon Palmer has noticed a pattern in Max Verstappen's approach to this.

Verstappen Saudi win
Article
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Jolyon Palmer has highlighted a "grey area" that is seemingly being exploited by Max Verstappen, which the former F1 driver believes could be flagged up in the drivers' briefings at some point.

With at least one Safety Car period occurring in the first two races of the 2022 F1 season - as well as, memorably, the final event of 2021 - Palmer has observed the line that Verstappen has taken on each occasion during the restart.

Looking in particular at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Palmer noticed that second-placed Verstappen had again got his nose alongside the leading car. In this case, this meant that Charles Leclerc - in P1 - was unable to pull out a gap as the restart approached.

Palmer highlights Verstappen's "interesting tactic"

"This caught the eye, because it's not the first time that Max has done this," Palmer said in a video for F1 TV.

"He's now done it three races in a row."

Examining the restart in Jeddah, Palmer explained: "He's just getting right alongside Leclerc into the final corner, and he's really meaning that Charles cannot open up the final corner because of the positioning of Max's car.

"So as we come to the final corner, you're struggling to see at this point who is the leader and who's in second, but it is Leclerc in front.

"He's looking over at this point towards Max on his right-hand side, because he just wants to shuffle him over, make sure he can get a good exit and get down that straight."

Whilst Leclerc was able to get ahead at this point, Palmer says that Verstappen's approach is an "interesting tactic", which here was "stopping Charles from opening up the corner".

The former F1 driver added: "The whole way through this, Max is just sitting there. He doesn't overtake, he's just sitting there alongside Charles.

"He's just being an absolute nuisance for the race leader."

A tactic that isn't always effective

Despite Verstappen's strategy seemingly working well in Jeddah, Palmer thinks that it was less effective at the Bahrain Grand Prix due to the Dutchman being on the inside this time, rather than the outside as was the case in Saudi Arabia.

"This works horribly for Verstappen, trying to be clever here, because now he's got the tight line," Palmer said, with Verstappen having had to defend from Carlos Sainz behind in Bahrain.

The same technique was also on display during the controversial Safety Car period of last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with Verstappen on this occasion preparing to battle with Lewis Hamilton for the lead upon the restart.

"He's doing exactly the same then. He's a menace here to Lewis, coming right alongside," Palmer said.

Verstappen's tactic here resulted in an investigation by the stewards, given that he appeared to briefly get in front of Hamilton ahead of the restart, but this was not taken any further.

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Is Verstappen's restart strategy fair?

In regards to how fair Verstappen's approach to race restarts is, Palmer admits that it is a "grey area".

"None of the drivers are complaining about it," the former Renault driver explained.

"[It's] the third race he's done it in a row. I don't think he's really doing anything wrong at this point. It's a really grey area.

"When the Safety Car comes out, technically the drivers have got to stay in line, and follow the Safety Car and then the race leader. And you'd say, yeah, Max is not staying in line, but who is staying in line at this point?

"It's a grey area. The rule doesn't say, you cannot have an overlap on the car ahead. It says you cannot overtake the car ahead. Max didn't - okay, in Abu Dhabi he did, but it's something that you never really see penalised. So it's a strange one.

"So far, he's not really gained any advantage out of it, it's just a tactic that he's doing. Maybe he's exploiting a grey area that no-one else is. "

Could the matter be raised by another driver?

However, Palmer could see Verstappen's restart move being discussed at a future drivers' briefing if it continues.

"I just wonder now if someone like Charles Leclerc might have a word in the next drivers' meeting and just discuss, is this acceptable on race restarts?" Palmer asked.

"Because in theory, it should give Max Verstappen the advantage, just because he's able to force the race leader into a position he doesn't really want to be.

"Max is exploiting it, [but] no-one seems unhappy about it at the moment."

In light of this, Palmer admits: "That rule might be tightened up in the future."

He has pointed out, though, that other drivers have done a similar thing at certain tracks, though it is more unusual for it to happen through the last few corners, which is the tactic that has been taken by Verstappen.

Also interesting:

F1 Podcast: Can anyone stop the Verstappen/Leclerc show?

RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour, and Thomas Maher look back over the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah, which was won in dramatic fashion by Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

F1 2022 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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