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Masi: Vettel, Verstappen incidents like 'apples and oranges'

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SPIELBERG, Austria -- F1 race director Michael Masi said it would be unfair to make any comparisons between Max Verstappen's race-winning move on Charles Leclerc in Austria and the incident that cost Sebastian Vettel victory at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this month.

After a lengthy stewards' investigation, FIA stewards decided to take no further action on Verstappen's aggressive, wheel-banging move on Leclerc three laps from the end of the race. Verstappen had barged past to cap off a stunning charge through the field for his and Red Bull's first win of the season and Honda's first since returning to F1 in 2015.

Ferrari opted against appealing, an avenue they chose to pursue after the events of the race in Montreal when Vettel was handed a five-second penalty for an incident with Lewis Hamilton which cost him the race win. On that occasion, Vettel ran wide while defending the lead and was adjudged to have rejoined ahead of Hamilton in an unsafe manner. The matter was only settled two weeks later at the French Grand Prix when stewards decided the new evidence Ferrari submitted did not warrant a review.

The Paul Ricard race featured a controversial moment of its own, with Daniel Ricciardo relegated out of the points by two separate time penalties handed out after a duel with Lando Norris and Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap. New race director Michael Masi, who delegates in-race decisions to a team of stewards at every race, said it is impossible to use one incident to argue against the other.

"Each and every incident needs to be considered on its own merits, talking different corners, different profiles, different drivers involved, different circumstances," Masi said on Sunday. "If we try to [compare] in that regard we're effectively compare apples and oranges.

"The incident in Canada, Sebastian went across the grass, he was in front, it wasn't an overtaking manoeuvre. The one with Daniel with Lando was very much part of Daniel going off the track and rejoining.

"This here [in Austria] was not, both cars were off the track, it was an overtaking manoeuvre... so trying to compare the three of them, they are three very different incidents. It was an overtaking manoeuvre and as the stewards rightly pointed out, in my view, it was a racing incident and it was one of those that was good, hard racing from the perspective they saw."

Masi, who was speaking to the media shortly after the verdict was published, went on to add: "From what I can see, their view was he had learned from the lap earlier, he went into the corner, braked later, Charles obviously saw him coming and stayed out wide. Max, in braking a lot later, was effectively late-apexed, and at all times a full lock and trying to power out.

"So the same thing that happened the lap previously didn't occur again. So that was, from what I can see and the general understanding I've had quickly having a chat with them, that was generally what I can see."

The process took almost two hours after the start of the hearing to be confirmed, meaning the result wasn't made official until late into the evening. Masi believes the nature of motor racing makes it difficult in certain scenarios to make speedy decisions.

"I think it's a tough one because it's one where you want the right decision made, considering all the circumstances and all the factors that are around and using as much information as you have available. So that's one part.

"The other part is that is no different in some areas to a technical matter, post-race scrutineering if there's a technical matter that gets discovered and it's the winner it's a different circumstance. It's just one of the nuances in this sport. We can't blow a whistle and freeze everything to make a decision and then play on.

"We try wherever possible to have the podium be the podium, but when it's in that last two, three laps of the race, it does make it quite difficult. But if it was something that happened on lap 3, I think if the stewards felt they had everything it would have been play-on. So it's a tough one, it's a balancing act."