Max Verstappen had plenty of reasons to be happy when reaching the chequered flag at the Styrian Grand Prix last weekend. He’d taken victory at his team’s home track (the Red Bull Ring), extended his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton, and put on a dominant display that suggested he is now the firm favourite for the 2021 driver’s title, particularly given Mercedes halting development on this year’s car.
You can’t blame him for wanting to celebrate in style, something he did by slowing down alongside the pit wall and briefly lighting up the rear tyres. It was far from the most outlandish display of tyre death, but regardless, the FIA didn’t take kindly to the modest skid.
You might wonder why this is, given that we sometimes see drivers perform big, tyre-shredding donuts without penalty. The problem here wasn’t so much the stunt itself, but where Verstappen chose to do it - on the start line with cars behind still at racing speeds.
F1 race director Michael Masi was quick to warn Red Bull Racing against pulling off anything like this again. “It was not an ideal situation, which is why I spoke to the team immediately and told them accordingly that its something that would not be tolerated in future,” he said.
It is permitted under the rules for drivers to “perform an act of celebration” on the way to parc fermé, so long as it “is performed safely and does not endanger other drivers or any officials”. For instance, pulling onto one of those big tarmac run-off areas you often get at FIA-grade circuits is A-OK, so long as the driver doesn’t take too long over it and delay the podium ceremony.
This rule was put into place in 2014, most likely because of a couple of donut-related incidents occurring the previous season. Then-RBR driver Sebastian Vettel was handed a $35,000 fine for some victory dounuts at the Indian Grand Prix. Undeterred, both Vettel and teammate defiantly got in on the donut action to celebrate a 1-2 finish at the Abu Dhabi GP.
Such displays are rare these days, though, given limited engine allocations over a season and strict budget caps.