Max Verstappen's stellar maiden F1 campaign ended on a sour note as he was assesses not one, but two penalties that dropped him out of the points at the Abu Dhabi finale.
Both Toro Rosso drivers had made strong starts to the race, and picked up places at regular intervals, but Verstappen's first indiscretion, added to an out-of-sequence pit-stop, began to see his evening unravel. The Dutch sensation had been duelling with veteran Jenson Button when the pair touched, sending Verstappen wide over the kerbs. While that, in itself, wasn't an issue, the stewards took umbrage at the Toro Rosso then retaking the track in front of its rival, and added five seconds to Verstappen's eventual race time.
“I'm not sure who exactly was in front, but we touched wheels and I just went wide,” the teenager confirmed, admitting that he had no thought of giving the place back to Button, “I saw him, and gave him space, but of course he tries to go for it as well so we touched. If I'd really wanted to, I could have pushed him off the track, but the thing is I don't want to do that.
“At least we had a fight – and I think he enjoyed it as well. I was clearly faster so I continued and opened a gap of five seconds, but it doesn't matter – if you finish twelfth of 16th at the end, it doesn't matter because you don't score points.”
Compounding Verstappen's race, however, was a further 20-second time penalty awarded for apparently ignoring blue flags with the charging Lewis Hamilton homing in on the Toro Rosso. This time, the Dutchman was a little more confused about the punishment.
“I saw after the race that I suddenly lost a lot of positions,” he said, “I thought 'okay, that happens…', but I don't know why it is under investigation because it has happened to me many times before that it has been that close – but, for me, it wasn't even that close.”
Both penalties also brought additional points to Verstappen's licence, with the totting up procedure now taking him to eight for the season after he collected two for his collision with Romain Grosjean in Monaco and three for speeding under a safety car at the Hungaroring. With a total of twelve points triggering a one-race ban, and no chance of the Dutchman erasing any black marks from the rolling accumulator until the middle of May next year, he is going to have to take it a little easier in the opening rounds of 2016.
Penalties apart, however, he insists that he enjoyed the race.
“In the beginning, it was all very close and that was quite enjoyable,” he reflected, “After the first pit-stop, the pace was quite good and I was catching up to the cars in front of me and, once Carlos [Sainz] let me by, I was also catching up to the guys in front of [him], so it was all good.
“But then I had a massive flat-spot into turn eight, and I still don't know why as I'd had all the same braking, but maybe it was a bit unlucky that I locked as it was both wheels, and from there on the race was compromised a lot as I stopped way too early. You try to manage it with the other tyres to the end, but it was just too hard for the right front on this track. If you back off, you lose temperature and everything gets worse and worse, so I had to stop again for the supersoft, which was not great as it was a new set and, on this track, after a few laps it just dies.
“We could have been ninth or tenth, around the Red Bull and the Lotus but, at the end of the day, I think it has been a great season, so one race like this… I'll take that. At least I enjoyed my overtakes...”