Written by By Sarah Woodward, CNN
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen has been given a five-place grid penalty for the opening round of the Formula One World Championship in Qatar on Sunday, following the accumulation of more than 10 penalty points since the last race in January.
“He received another penalty after failing to attend post-qualifying inspection at the Australian Grand Prix,” said an F1 statement.
After what he describes as a “relaxed weekend” leading up to the season-opener, the 20-year-old said in a message posted to his Facebook page: “The team is working hard to ensure everything is in order.”
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However, he was quick to blast claims that his actions at the Australian Grand Prix led to him being given a penalty.
“You can read this as you like but never me, I have never messed up there in that situation. #stupid,” Verstappen said.
The 20-year-old’s team mate, team-mate, and good friend, Kevin Magnussen, agreed: “I don’t believe it to be true,” he said of the suggestion that his friend was being punished.
“It’s very bizarre. We were relaxed the weekend before the first practice. Nobody talked on the team. He (Verstappen) did a great job getting the car ready and whatever is said is said.”
Splendid sight: Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen relaxing on the island of Ko Tao in the Maldives ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Following his involvement in a clash in Melbourne with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, Verstappen was subsequently reprimanded by F1 stewards and given one driver’s seat penalty, yet in his post-race interview the Dutchman stood by his actions and insisted he had done nothing wrong.
The 22-year-old, who has since been picked up by Toro Rosso, added fuel to the fire by swearing as he came out of his car’s pit lane exit and slamming his car’s door shut before walking off the circuit in frustration.
The German Grand Prix is the first of five races on the calendar, the 25-year-old Rosberg is aiming to become the first F1 driver to end a season on top of the podium in five consecutive seasons.
News broke on the eve of this weekend’s race that Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff had agreed to resign from his role after nine years in the position.
“I cannot hide my emotion as it is time for me to leave the sport. A massive thank you to everyone,” said Wolff, who added that it was “the hardest decision” he has ever made.
When he eventually announced his intention to step down from the role last month, Wolff said that he hoped that the decision would allow the team to focus on “putting success in front of the wheel.”