MAX VERSTAPPEN could be slapped with a race ban if he continues his high-risk style of driving.
The Red Bull star, 24, picked up seven penalty points in 2021.
Only 12 can be picked up in a 12-month span before triggering a one-race ban.
The first of those seven penalty points won’t come off his record until September, meaning 16 Grands Prix in which Verstappen will have to be on best behaviour.
He picked up his first world championship in the most controversial of fashions last month – when much maligned decisions by FIA race director Michael Masi handed him glory.
His victory came after a series of tussles with Lewis Hamilton throughout an exciting 2021 season.
They first clashed at Silverstone in July, when the Brit was deemed to be at fault for a collision that saw Verstappen hospitalised.
Hamilton shook off a ten-second penalty to still come out on top that day.
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But further battles were to come.
Verstappen was then the man in the wrong at the Italian Grand Prix in September when his Red Bull terrifyingly landed on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes – with only the vehicle’s halo preventing a potentially catastrophic injury.
This incident saw the Dutchman pick up his first two penalty points of the year and he was slapped with a three-place grid penalty for the following race in Russia.
Two more points followed in Qatar as Verstappen failed to respect double-waved yellow flags in qualifying.
And his remaining three points were all picked up in Saudi Arabia for a series of misdemeanours while chasing Hamilton.
He was first penalised for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, before later braking in a fashion deemed to have caused a collision with the seven-time champion while supposedly being made to give his place back.
Rumours of retirement have swirled around Hamilton, 36, since the season’s controversial culmination in Abu Dhabi.
The Mercedes star has been radio silent on social media.
But the team itself has hinted that their star man WILL be back this year to compete for a record eighth world championship.
He will be joined by George Russell, following the departure of Valtteri Bottas.
Some observers, however, feel that the Silver Arrows will wish they’d have been able to sign McLaren star Lando Norris instead.