Red Bull driver Max’s sensible overtaking move on Kimi Raikkonen on the inside of Turn 17 on the final lap of the race. But the strict clarification of the regulations was judged he crossed the ‘track limit’ with all four wheels.
A five-second penalty handed him for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. Verstappen thought he’d finished third but was removed in the FIA cooldown room after the fact, promoting Raikkonen back to the final podium position, and making the second time in 12 months (2016 Mexican Grand Prix) Verstappen had lost a podium after the race actually finished.
Steward interference has been a controversial topic in F1 in recent years and Lauda said the decision in Austin went against everything the sport had agreed ahead of the season.
“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” he said.
“So we complained about that and the stewards were there, Charlie [Whiting, F1 race director] was there and we were there, and there we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere. Very simple.
“If the driver goes over another and [ends up] upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year. For six months it was OK, but this decision today was the worst I’ve ever seen. He [Verstappen] did nothing wrong. These are racing drivers and we are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kinds of decisions.
“At the next strategy meeting we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that. They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”
Lauda also added on Mercedes’ Constructors’ triumph and Hamilton’s victory.
“Thank you to everyone at Brackley and Brixworth. Together we made it. An unbelievable result and I’m really happy.
“It was touch and go two stop or one stop. Lewis had everything under control, maybe Bottas could have used another strategy but it doesn’t matter. For us a fantastic result.”