chirag Jul 01, 2024

Johnny Herbert: I was steward for Verstappen crash into Norris – 10-second penalty was max punishment we could give, Dutchman drives like Schumacher

Speaking to, retired F1 driver Johnny Herbert revealed that the 10-second penalty given to Max Verstappen was the maximum punishment the stewards could have given the Dutchman for his crash into Lando Norris. Herbert has compared Verstappen’s driving style to the legendary Michael Schumacher, claiming it is ingrained in the three-time World Drivers Champion. Johnny Herbert: I was steward for Verstappen crash into Norris – 10-second penalty was max punishment we could give, Dutchman drives like Schumacher


Speaking to, retired F1 driver Johnny Herbert revealed that the 10-second penalty given to Max Verstappen was the maximum punishment the stewards could have given the Dutchman for his crash into Lando Norris.

Herbert has compared Verstappen’s driving style to the legendary Michael Schumacher, claiming it is ingrained in the three-time World Drivers Champion.

The Englishman was also asked about the Goodwood Festival of Speed and recalled one of his favourite memories of the motorsport event.

Please read the full interview below.

What did you make of the Max Verstappen incident? You were the driving steward who issued the sanction:

JH: “It was Max’s fault. He is a hard racer. He is very, very hard to beat. He intimidates everybody. That intimidation is something that Lewis. Michael Schumacher, and Ayrton Senna, have always done. When you come up against Max as he is driving today, there’s a point if you’re Lando that you have to say: ‘I am here. I am at your side. You are trying to squeeze me off the circuit. And I am not going to move.’

“Lando did the right thing. He did not move. He did not have to. Some people said he could have moved. But that is not how you beat Max or how you win the Grand Prix.

“It is the side of Max that has always been [part of his armoury. We haven’t seen it for a while, because he has been so dominant. It is interesting to see how he reacts under pressure. He did not agree with the penalty that came his way which also included two points on his license.

“I am sure he will reflect and once he has had time to think about it and look at the video he will understand that that is not a situation he could into again because it might harm his chances of winning the World Championships[ this year.

“It is good that he is under pressure for the first time in a long time. Lando and McLaren have been chipping away at it and now you start seeing those little cracks starting to appear. Max had to go back to his hard self which sometimes just goes over the top and gets himself into trouble.”

Are these rash or deliberate and calculating moves by Max?

JH: “It is deliberate which is why I use the word intimidation where he goes to the very limits without getting himself in trouble. But he has always had this in his history.

“I like competition because I think it is a very important part of racing. But I sometimes don’t like it when he gets to the point that you are actually forcing a car off the circuit. That is not what it is all about. It is about placing the car. He does place the car very well, but he just has that tendency to put everyone else in a position which goes beyond the drivers’ unwritten code. That is what we saw in Austria.”

How serious did you as the steward think the incident was? Had there been an option for a greater penalty would you have taken it?

JH: “That is the hardest one that can be applied under FIA guidelines that we operate under as stewards.  McLaren have said it should have been harsher, but that is the game all teams play.

“If someone had flipped over or been barrel rolling down the track I don’t know if that would have changed things. Forcing a driver off the circuit or causing an incident is what it came under. 

“That was the maximum sanction we could have taken.”

How does the process work?

JH: “When we were watching it, it immediately came down to whose fault was it. And it was Max’s.

“The interesting thing is we were just about to penalise Lando at the time because he had gone outside the track limit four times and we gave him a five-second penalty literally at the moment they came into contact.

“We were dealing with that when the contact happened and I looked up and saw the tyre off.”

Do you come to an instant judgment?

JH: “Yes. So much was going on. It is issued right away.

“Lando’s penalty was academic in the final analysis and it is not carried forward to the next race like a yellow card in football.”

How will the pressure affect Max going forward now he’s facing genuine competition? How will he react?

JH: “The good thing with someone like Max is that although he does not agree with it, he will find a way to use his weaponry in a different way. As stewards, we looked at his under-braking and it was not clear. It was clever and just and just made it a bit more difficult for Lando to pick whether he went left or right into a particular corner.

“He will adjust somehow and find another way of doing it but still put the same pressure to whoever his opponent is.”

How will that affect Lando?

JH: “Max is now aware that he can’t put that pressure on Lando and expect him just to move out of the way, that Lando will fight back. Up until Austria Max had always won. Now he is not winning. It will be interesting to see how Lando responds. He will now be in a better place after what has happened. He has realised he knows she has a chance of beating Max at his own game. That will be fascinating to watch.”

Will Max be under greater scrutiny now? Do stewards look at him more closely?

JH: “The stewards only react to what is put in front of them. They are not looking for it or waiting for it. Everybody is going to be aware of it. Everyone knows Max races at the very edge and sometimes goes over it.

“When the pressure starts to build, it is the driver who has the ability to intimidate the most who will take control of a situation.

“Everyone has been reminded just what is in Max’s makeup. Is he going to change? No. That is not his way. And he is right not to.

“I think he needs slightly to temper it.”

Andrea Stella at McLaren said Max should have been penalise more.

JH: “It is all about consistency. We have to abide by the FIA regulations which say if there is a car which makes contact with another car it is a ten-second penalty full stop. That is the consistency which you need.

“To go ‘well that was more extreme’ doesn’t work. It was hard racing and one driver made a little error in squeezing the other. That led to the contact.

“There is no sliding scale of penalties because that would become a bigger issue and more subjective. If you try to slice up an incident it causes more problems and then it is more inconsistent and everyone gets more unhappy.”

Will Verstappen think he’s got away with one?

JH: “He will think he did no wrong. Will it change his mindset? Probably not. It will not change the way he goes racing. No driver before, like Michael Schumacher, never changed their approach.

“And I don’t want him to. I find it really exciting. It is just when he gets to that point, he can only blame him.

“It was very clear to everyone, but he would not change his stripes.

“Max didn’t come to the stewards’ room. We made the decision and that is it.”

Can you see in Max a young Schumacher?

JH: “Yes, I can. Look at Michael’s incidents with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve for instance. He would do anything he could to benefit from a certain situation.  Jos, his father, drove with Michael at Benetton and he would have seen first-hand those incidents how Michael operated. I can imagine him saying to Max in his younger days: ‘I want you to drive and intimidate everyone off the circuit effectively. You make sure that you win the race by being the toughest driver.’

“The way Max drives will have been shaped a lot by Jos’s input and his own experiences of driving with Michael Schumacher. It will never change. It is ingrained in him.”

There seems to be a lot of unhappiness at Red Bull, with Horner and then Jos Verstappen being removed from the Red Bull celebrations? Max’s penalty won’t help the atmosphere, will it?

JH: “Jos is having issues within the structure. Will it affect Max? You could say, ‘No, because he doesn’t really care.’ But I think it does because he talks to his Dad a lot.  It makes the situation all the more uncomfortable when it doesn’t need to be when they still have the best car, the best driver and likely to win the World Championship. It has started to become a bit petty because of the silliness that exists between Jos and Christian and also Christian’s comments aimed at Toto at the same time. Is it something that could disrupt the whole championship challenge now that there is a real threat in the shape of McLaren? Maybe.

“McLaren are probably in a better place because there is harmony which everyone can see, and they are getting stronger. They have seen what happened between Lando and Max and that will make them stronger. McLaren are throwing a lot of pressure towards Red Bull.

“Max has got the advantage but it is definitely not a given that it is going to be an easy road for them. It can take just one race to change the whole thing.

“McLaren ands Lando have to maintain their consistency and get those wins which will add only more pressure.”

Will all this help to make Max think he should go elsewhere?

JH: “Max is very much thr team leader and in total control of everything in the team. But it is what happens in the future. At the end of this year, he will have a better understanding of whether Red Bull still have that winning momentum. If not, that is when he will start asking questions about whether he is in the right place for 2026.”

Where could he go?

JH: “Any team would want Max even though he can ruffle feathers. That is what the greatest of the sport do. He gets the best out of people and himself. Will there be a slot at Mercedes? If Carlos Sainz goes there, probably not. He may have no choice but to stick with what he has got which may not be what he needs to fight the others.”

In terms of the rivalry, could that of Lando and Max be the next great one for F1?

JH: “Yes it can. Lando has said if Max apologizes I will accept it and if he doesn’t I will lose respect for him. He probably will say sorry, but will he mean it?!

“You know that neither will back out of that same situation again.

“If this battle continues, as it will, there is every chance of a similar situation happening again. The lovely thing is both are still young and getting better. For the next two years this will be a battle royale which will be great for us and them. It will be the smartest one who will come out on top.”

Who is that then in your opinion?

JH: “Lando is probably the one who has less aggression, but he can actually outfox him and in a smart way. Max has the aggression, but he has to use it in a way that intimidation is still there. For me intimidation is still the most powerful thing when you are going wheel to wheel.”

They have been great friends for a long time. But as the stakes get higher could it fracture that relationship?

JH: “It is strange. When the visor goes down, you are not friends anymore.  It completely changes. Will it change stuff they do outside the sport? They do SIM race together. I don’t think that will change. The race weekend might change though, a slightly more fractious affair which is exactly what it should be. Lando is fast learning the ropes of what it takes to win races and world championships.  

“You have got to have a darker edge where you will do anything to win.”

It sets up Silverstone brilliantly?

JH: “The Red Bull won’t have lost any of its speed. Silverstone is a high-speed track which should benefit Red Bull.  

“McLaren has got to find a tiny bit in qualifying. And I wonder whether Mercedes could come in to play this weekend and spring a surprise.

“McLaren in a race situation might just have the edge provided they can get qualifying right. It is a home Grand Prix, with positive vibes from the fans which Lando can use in a positive way.

“But Max will twist that round to his own advantage! He will turn a negative into a positive.

“The whole support bubble will feed Lando. I go back to ‘Mansell Mania’ time. Nigel thrived on the home support. He was so good at harnessing that positive energy. Lando is younger but he has now sampled what it takes and how he can use it to his advantage.

“It will be a very important learning curve for Lando. It is going to be fascinating and the British public needs to snap up tickets and support their star.”

What about Oscar Piastri’s future? He’s surely going to win a race soon?

JH: “When he first came in, he put Lando under a lot of pressure. But Lando has been able to absorb that pressure and improve. Now he is having a different experience. It’s not about competing with his team-mate, but fighting Max.

“This is where Lando will edge away from Oscar potentially. Oscar won’t ever be far away, and will be disappointed he didn’t win last weekend. When he does win that will give him extra energy. It will come, but now it is Lando time!”

Goodwood Festival of Speed? How special is it?

JH: “It is one of the big events in the motorsport calendar in Britain. Its popularity has grown so fast. It’s kept its classy ability to draw drivers from all around the world, all cars from different eras, some that maybe have never been seen before, the speed run up the hill.

“Everybody gets very close to the action and the drivers. It still has a very unique way of presenting motorsport in the back garden of Lord March! It is something that puts the hairs of the back of the drivers’ necks up, and so to the spectators because they are so close to what is going on.”

Favourite memory?

JH: “The most fun I had was when I was at Jaguar in 2000 and did doughnuts outside Goodwood House, and covered it in rubber smoke. It was frowned upon. I was told not to do it, but I did it anyway. It was what the fans wanted to see!”

Celebration of Red Bull this year?

JH: “It makes it special. Red Bull have done some huge things not only in motorsport. What is nice is that Goodwood recognises the excellence of F1 and motorsport as a whole in this country and what it brings to the business world. The celebration is very important in all categories of motorsport.

“We are still the best. We still have this uncanny ability to keep on top despite all the changes in technology. We are still able to produce the best quality race cars on the planet which is brilliant for a little island!”