Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have been officially warned they could be kicked out of the entire championship for foul play in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showdown.
Race director Michael Masi, who is in charge of racing, issued the dictat on the eve of the hotly anticipated final round of the world championship.
In a detailed statement released Thursday afternoon he said the punishment could even include suspension from next year’s championship or more.
Other options open to the stewards would be to strip drivers of points as well.
In a comprehensive statement Masi warned that the same penalty could be dished out to the team as well as the driver.
The move comes amid increasingly desperate tactics in this year’s title chase and fears for the two driver’s safety.
Hamilton and Verstappen collided twice at the last round in Saudi Arabia. The duo went off the track while battling for position and the Dutchman was given a five-second penalty.
Although some onlookers believe Hamilton was partially to blame, he ran into the back of the Red Bull in a separate incident.Mercedes' world champion accused Verstappen of “brake-testing” him.
Verstappen insisted he had merely slowed, as instructed, to let Hamilton pass but stewards ruled his braking had been “erratic”.
For those actions the Dutchman was given another 10-second penalty.
Hamilton’s win means the duo go into Sunday’s race dead level on points – the first time that has happened in the sport since 1974.
But with one extra win (9–8) Verstappen would become champion if the duo crash out again.
But his tactics and the rising tension between Mercedes and Red Bull has resulted in Masi’s dictat.
It quoted the International Sporting Code line for line:
- 9.3 Article 12.2.1 – Breach of Rules and in particular Article 12.2.1.l Any infringement of the principles of fairness in Competition, behaviour in an unsportsmanlike manner or attempt to influence the result of a Competition in a way that is contrary to sporting ethics.
- 29.4 Article 12.4.5 - For all the FIA Championships, cups, challenges, trophies or series, the stewards may also decide to impose the following penalties: Suspension for one or more Competitions, withdrawal of points for the Championship, cup, challenge, trophy, series.”
- 29.5 Article 12.4.5.a - Points should not be deducted separately from Drivers and Competitors, save in exceptional circumstances.
After the drama in Saudi Arabia, Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, said the stewards need to make the possible punishments for rogue racing clear to the two drivers.
Hill lost out on the 1994 title when he crashed out with Michael Schumacher in Adelaide.
Three years later, Schumacher was stripped from the entire championship for driving into Jacques Villeneuve in the final round in an attempt to wrap up the title.