Few were those in the F1 paddock who felt compelled to defend Max Verstappen after the Red Bull driver’s blunder in free practice yesterday left him stranded on the sidelines for qualifying.
The Dutchman crashed at the end of the morning session, heavily damaging his RB14. However, it was a gearbox leak that ultimately ruled out a potential run to pole that fell into the hands of team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
The aftermath of the incident was perhaps as painful for Verstappen as the hit itself, with several prominent F1 figures taking a shot at the 20-year-old.
Nico Rosberg qualified the mishap as “a dark moment” for Verstappen and “a huge setback”.
“He was faster than Daniel Ricciardo and then he crashed at the dumbest moment,” said the 2016 world champion.
“He had an almost identical crash in 2016. I wonder if Max is too confident — risking too much. If you’re doing that, there is no track that bites you in the ass more than Monaco,” the German added.
Verstappen owns up: ‘This way my mistake!’
“He hasn’t seemed to learn at all. It’s already the fifth time this year but it’s his fourth season in Formula 1. You can’t really say it’s inexperience.
“It’s a very dark moment for Max. At the moment everything is going wrong for him but I don’t have much hope for him anymore.”
Force India’s Sergio Perez agreed that Verstappen was not learning from his mistakes.
“Those things happen. But if it happens after you’ve done it [before] then it means you haven’t learned,” said the Mexican.
“It can happen to anyone, we’re all pushing really hard. If it happens twice, then it means you’re not learning about it.
“We put our wheels millimetres away [from the barriers], and from the couch maybe it’s easier to judge. But you should learn from your mistakes.”
Mercedes non-executive chairman offered an even more brutal opinion of the Red bull driver’s state of affairs.
“What is the solution for him? Changing the brain,” said the F1 legend.
Asked how he would deal with the driver if he was in Helmut Marko’s shoes, Lauda admitted it was not an easy case to manage.
“I would ask him ‘How many times do you want to do the same thing?’, replied the Austrian.
“First, Dr Marko has to tell him this (crash) is not possible while at the same time defending him outwardly. It’s a difficult balancing act and I know it’s not easy.”
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