By Alan Baldwin
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Max Verstappen made a public apology for his criticism of a Formula One steward on Thursday after the sport’s governing body made clear they were awaiting his response.
The 20-year-old Red Bull driver was demoted from third to fourth at last weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix after stewards ruled he gained an advantage by exceeding track limits while passing Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on the last lap.
Verstappen called one of the officials an “idiot” in television interviews, with comments to Dutch audiences showing even less respect.
Speaking to reporters at the Mexican Grand Prix, Verstappen stood by his view the punishment was wrong but accepted he could have used better words to express his feelings.
He later posted a message on Instagram to apologize for his language.
“My comments were made in the heat of the moment, I know that the words I used were inappropriate and they were not directed at any one person,” he said.
“I certainly did not mean to cause any offence and I hope we can move on and enjoy this race weekend.”
Formula One race director Charlie Whiting earlier told reporters that “it would be nice” if Verstappen apologized for what he had said, but had yet to do so.
Verstappen’s comments on Sunday were widely interpreted as being aimed at Australian steward Garry Connelly, who has been involved in previous decisions against the youngster.
Whiting said however the officials’ decision had been unanimous and rejected a suggestion that Connelly’s record showed he “had it in” for the Dutchman.
“I know Garry very well and a more honest and scrupulous person you couldn’t ever come across,” added the Briton, who said other drivers who exceeded track limits in Austin went unpunished because they gained no lasting advantage.
“Any idea that he may have it in for a driver is wholly unfounded.”
The penalty for Verstappen has become a major talking point, but Mercedes title favorite Lewis Hamilton saw plenty to praise in the youngster.
“He will say different things when he is 30 and handle things differently,” the Briton told reporters. “But what’s great about Max is that he has got this great fire in him and who are we to dim that?
“He has got this bright light and what is important is to allow it to shine. He will learn through his own mistakes but that doesn’t take away from his real talent.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris/Greg Stutchbury)