THE US Grand Prix descended into chaos seconds after the drivers crossed the finish line as stewards snatched Max Verstappen's 11th career podium out of his hands.
Officials deemed the 20-year-old to have run Kimi Raikkonen off the track in his final-lap overtake which saw the young Dutchman steal a third-placed finish.
Verstappen was hit with a five-second deduction and officially placed fourth, adding to Red Bull's unfortunate weekend which saw Daniel Ricciardo retire early in the race with engine problems.
Lewis Hamilton wasn't able to close out the Driver's Championship in Austin as Sebastian Vettel fought for second - but the stage is set for the Brit to take home his fourth title next week in Mexico.
F1 legend Niki Lauda slammed the decision to boot Verstappen from the podium in a rant aimed directly at the sport's stewards.
The 68-year-old said the disappointing finish was destroying the sport.
"This decision is the worst I've ever seen. He did nothing wrong. We're racing drivers, we're not on a normal road," he said per Motorsport.com. "It's ridiculous to destroy the sport with this kind of decision."
Lauda poked holes in the stewards' logic, claiming a decision was made last year to hold back from penalising drivers if their actions were not obviously dangerous.
"The stewards were in, (Jean) Todt asked everybody, Charlie (Whiting) was there, we were there, and there we agreed all together that unless it is dangerous, the stewards would not interfere," he said.
"Very simple. If they drive over (each other) and go upside down, only then they will come in. It was the beginning of last year."
The three-time world champion said he'd be sitting down with officials this year to "start it all over again".
"Next strategy meeting we need to bring it up," he said. "Because we cannot do that, it's going too far. There was nothing to interfere with, it was a normal overtaking."
Furious Red Bull team principal Christian Horner attacked his driver's "appalling" penalty and claimed it "robbed all of the fans" minutes after the race.
But it was the 20-year-old who spat the most fire from the Red Bull camp after the mess.
"We had a really great race, but with those stupid decisions you really kill the sport," Verstappen said. "It's one idiot steward up there which always makes decisions against me."
Verstappen slammed the inconsistency of the stewards, claiming different areas of the track were treated with differing levels of scrutiny.
"At the end of the day everybody is running wide everywhere, there are no track limits," he said. "At Turn 9 you can run wide, at Turn 19 you can go off the track and nobody will say anything.
"It's the same with (Valtteri) Bottas - I went for a move, and he continued outside the track; he came back, I really had to pass him, and nothing has been done against that while he definitely gained advantage. If he made the track he would have been behind me."
Verstappen said the penalty in front of millions of viewers was tarnishing the sport's reputation.
"It's not good for the crowd," he said. "I really hope next year nobody is coming, because like this the sport doesn't make sense."