F1 2021: Verstappen under investigation for Qatar qualifying as Sao Paulo saga rumbles on

By Sports Desk November 20, 2021

Max Verstappen heads into Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix well off the pace of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes and under investigation by the stewards, with the fallout over the title rivals' battle in Brazil refusing to die down.

Verstappen is under investigation for refusing to slow down under waved yellow flags in qualifying.

The world championship leader has been summoned to the stewards having apparently failed to respond to single waved yellows on his final lap after Pierre Gasly suffered a puncture on the pit straight.

If found guilty, he will likely face a grid penalty having qualified second behind Hamilton, who set a blistering time of 1:20.827.

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas (third) and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz (seventh) are also under investigation for the same offence.

Qualifying came after an elongated drivers briefing that lasted over an hour as they sought clarification over what represents fair driving following the tussle between Verstappen and Hamilton in Sao Paulo, which saw the latter forced off track as they fought for the lead.

Asked if the FIA had succeeded in clarifying the issue, Verstappen told the drivers' media conference: "I think it's always trying to align everyone in having the same process in the way you think, everyone.

"Everyone is different, right? And everybody I think has their own way of racing and defending and overtaking, and of course very hard for the FIA as well to, how do you say it? To get everyone on the same line.

"Of course, they decide but every driver has a different opinion. And I think yesterday [Friday] it was all about sharing their opinions, and then the FIA explaining their process of thought behind it. So, I think we came a long way, and it was a very long briefing. So, yeah, I think at the end it was pretty clear."

Hamilton, though, had a very different view.

"It's not clear. Every driver, except for Max, was asking just for clarity, most drivers were asking for clarity, but it wasn't very clear," he said. 

"So, yeah, it's still not clear what the limits of the track are. It's clearly not the white line anymore, when overtaking but… yeah, we just go for it. We just ask for consistency. So, if it's the same as the last race then it should be the same for all of us in those scenarios and it's fine."

With victory, Hamilton could trim Verstappen's lead to seven points were the Dutchman to finish second, and he has every reason for confidence with his Mercedes taking pole by a gap that surprised even himself.

"Probably the last three races in qualifying we have been ahead of them, which has been a bit of a surprise," added Hamilton. 

"Today definitely wasn't expecting to have as big a gap as that. I looked, I was relatively comfortable and was around tenth or so ahead throughout the session, but to be able to pull out that extra time felt great and it's a great showing of the hard work, all the guys, as I said we were here until midnight last night. The guys were here even later than that. Really great work from everyone.

"Long-run pace is good. We always end up getting closer… or our pace closes up to each other when it comes to race pace and yeah, I think the car is in a good place. It's a difficult circuit to follow so, yeah, I'm looking forward to the start."

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