Talking will calm Max Verstappen, penalties will not

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For the sake of argument, let's assume that Max Verstappen is a moustache-twirling evil villain of motorsport who weaves more than an Arabian carpet-maker, leaving a trail of devastated carbon fibre in his wake.

If the Red Bull ingenue is at fault for everything he was being blamed for following Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, how should the F1 world go about ensuring that Verstappen improves his defensive driving techniques to the satisfaction of his on-track rivals?

After a spectacular race that was further enlivened by Kimi Raikkonen's radio fury over Verstappen's defensive manoeuvres, there was something of a war of words between the Ferrari pair and the Red Bull driver. According to Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel was entirely to blame for the La Source crash that ruined their afternoon, while Vettel pointed to Max's "very bold move" as the cause of the three-car pile-up

"I don't think what Max was trying to do would have worked," Vettel said. "Obviously he didn't allow Kimi to move into the inside, and that prevented both of them from clearing Turn One in a normal way. We all three touched and collided, and this was bad news for Kimi and for me. Of course, with hindsight, I would have given more room to the inside, but you want to make the corner and try to race, and I gave room to Kimi, but not to three cars.

"Max had a bad start, he was falling behind. I think we have seen in the last couple of years that if you really dive down the very inside,the track is falling off and you basically go straight. The cars ahead have priority, and this is something he needs to understand. In that regard there was no way he could have made the corner without making contact."

None of the drivers were penalised during the race for their part in the accident, which the stewards appeared to see as a standard racing incident off the start.

Whoever was at fault on Sunday, the La Source crash has reignited a paddock debate about Verstappen's driving standards. No one thinks the Dutch teenager is anything other than a champion in waiting, but -- like any other driver -- he is not immune to making the odd mistake.

In 2014 the FIA introduced the current penalty point and reprimand system under which drivers can receive up to 12 points on their Super License in any given calendar year before they face a suspension. The system was introduced to enforce driving standards on track and to try and minimise repeated mistakes from the same culprit. Similarly, three reprimands in a racing season leads to a 10-place grid drop at the next grand prix.

Since Monza 2015, Verstappen has received only three penalty points; all of those were earned following the 2015 season finale in Abu Dhabi, when the Red Bull driver was penalised both for ignoring waved blue flags and for forcing Jenson Button off track. Those three points put the Dutch racer towards the bottom of the penalty points table, ahead of Vettel but some way behind Raikkonen.

But how effective has the introduction of these penalty points been? No driver -- not even Pastor Maldonado -- has accrued the necessary 12 points to secure a one-race ban.

In the post-Spa media scrums, Vettel proposed an alternative solution in light of what he felt were Verstappen's on-track infractions.

"We talked about moving under braking. Top speed... reaching 340 km/h... and he's moving," Vettel told NBC Sports after the race. "It works so long as the car behind plays accordingly and lifts. But if both stick to line, both crash. That's not what you want to do. If you drive like that it won't end up too well. More than anything it cost us - and him - a lot of time."

His solution? A good old-fashioned sit down with some face-to-face communication.

"I don't like to investigate anything. We're men; we're not in kindergarten," Vettel continued. "If I have a problem with Max I need to go to talk to him. But obviously right after race isn't the best moment! Leave it to us though. If you go beyond the limits you need to talk. In general, I'm not a fan. We're not here to cry, 'oh here's a penalty!'"